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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 12, 2015

Justice Department Settles Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Suit Against the State of Maryland, Queen Anne's County, and the Queen Anne's County Sheriff

The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into a consent decree with the state of Maryland and the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff.  If approved by the court, the settlement will resolve Murphy-Taylor v. State of Maryland, et al., a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit in which the United States intervened in Feb. 2013.  The United States previously entered into a consent decree with Queen Anne’s County in May 2014.

The United States’ complaint in intervention alleged that several supervisors in the Sheriff’s Office, including the Sheriff’s brother, subjected Kristy Murphy-Taylor to severe sexual harassment and that the Sheriff and members of his command staff retaliated against her when she complained in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  According to the United States’ complaint, over a number of years, Ms. Murphy-Taylor was subjected to numerous acts of unwanted sexual conduct by multiple supervisors including repeated incidents of unwanted sexual touching by the Sheriff’s brother.  Despite Ms. Murphy-Taylor’s complaints about the harassment, the complaint alleges that the defendants failed to take prompt and effective corrective action.  Instead, they allegedly subjected her to intolerable working conditions intended to make her quit, and ultimately terminated her for complaining about the sexual harassment by the Sheriff’s brother.

Under the terms of the consent decree with the state of Maryland and the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff, the defendants have agreed to revise the relevant sexual harassment policies and the procedures for handling complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation.  In particular, the Maryland State Police will provide oversight for the handling of complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation made by employees of the Sheriff’s Office against sworn officers.  Ms. Murphy- Taylor will also receive $250,000 in damages.  Under the terms of the consent decree entered into with Queen Anne’s County in May 2014, Ms. Murphy-Taylor received $620,000 in damages including backpay, frontpay, and attorney’s fees, and Queen Anne’s County agreed to provide oversight and investigative functions for the handling of complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation made by employees of the Sheriff’s Office.

“No woman should have to face losing her job in order to be free from sexual harassment and retaliation at work,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to eradicating sex discrimination in the workplace.  The resolution of this lawsuit ensures that the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office will comply with federal law requiring employers to take prompt and effective corrective action to complaints of sexual harassment.”

"Workplace harassment should not be tolerated,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang. “Complaints of workplace harassment are among the most frequent complaints we receive at EEOC, accounting for 30% of the total charges we received last year.  The Commission is working to prevent and address harassment through targeted outreach and enforcement.”

“This is another example of how collaboration between EEOC and the Department of Justice leads to effective enforcement of Title VII and ensures that public employees are protected from workplace discrimination and retaliation prohibited by Title VII,” said Director Spencer H. Lewis Jr. of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.  The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC has offices in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, and oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.

This lawsuit was brought by the Department of Justice as a result of a joint effort to enhance collaboration between the EEOC and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for vigorous enforcement of Title VII.

More information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the website of the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division (www.justice.gov/crt/about/emp/).

15-173
Updated August 26, 2015