Justice News

Department of Justice
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Alleging Retaliation by Franklin County, North Carolina

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a consent decree with Franklin County, N.C., that, if approved in federal court in Raleigh, N.C., will resolve the department’s allegation that the county retaliated against a former employee in its Department of Public Utilities, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion; Title VII also prohibits retaliation against employees for opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe are discriminatory under Title VII or for filing a complaint of employment discrimination.

The department’s complaint, which was filed on Sep. 25, 2009, alleges that the county retaliated against Karen Dorrans because she complained about what she believed to be sexual harassment by a co-worker, and because she did not confront the alleged harasser about his conduct after the county instructed her to do so. According to the complaint, the county disciplined Dorrans by extending her probationary period of employment by six months, denying her a salary increase, issuing her a disciplinary “final warning” and significantly lowering her quarterly job performance ratings. The department’s complaint does not allege that Dorrans, in fact, was subjected to sexual harassment in violation of Title VII; but, rather, that the county’s retaliatory response to her harassment complaint violated Title VII.

The consent decree prohibits the county from engaging in any act or practice that retaliates against any county employee. The consent decree also requires the county to implement and disseminate a policy that prohibits retaliation and to provide mandatory training regarding the law of equal employment opportunity and prohibited harassment and retaliation to all supervisory employees. The decree further requires the county to provide Dorrans with $17,500 in compensatory monetary relief.

Prior to filing its complaint, the Justice Department was engaged in discussions with the county. Those discussions led to the filing of the consent decree only four days after the complaint was filed.

“All workers deserve the basic right of going to a workplace each day that is free of discrimination and retaliation. We are pleased that the county will promptly implement new policies and procedures that comply with Title VII,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King. “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce the right of all employees to be free of retaliation in the workplace.”

The enforcement of Title VII is a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its Web sites at  http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/  and  http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp/.

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Updated September 15, 2014