Energy Company Fired Employee Because She Complained About Sexual Harassment, Federal Agency Says
ABINGDON, Va. - Charleston, W.V.-based Appalachian Power Company, an electric utility company, violated federal law when it subjected a contract administrative assistant to sexual harassment and then fired her for complaining about it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
According to the suit, the contract administrative assistant began working in Appalachian Power Company's accounting department at its Clinch River facility in November 2016. Not long after she started, her supervisor subjected her to repeated sexual harassment, such as making unwelcome comments about her body, expressing his physical attraction to her, telling her that he loved her and that he wanted to leave his wife for her, and scrutinizing her interactions with co-workers. The administrative assistant told him she was not interested in a relationship, but the supervisor continued to harass her, once telling her, "You can get me in a lot of trouble, but I know you would not do that because I'll pull rank and terminate you." Because the employee objected to his unwelcome harassment, the supervisor abruptly discharged her, the EEOC says.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment based on sex. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who oppose sexual harassment. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Appalachian Power Company, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00035) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Abingdon Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"No worker, whether a permanent or temporary employee, should be forced to endure egregious sexual harassment in order to make a living, or suffer retaliation for opposing the harassment," said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.
EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie R. Williamson added, "The EEOC stands ready to protect the rights of employees to refuse unwelcome sexual advances. Employers should take action to root out sexual harassment, not punish workers who complain about it."
The EEOC's Pittsburgh Area Office is one of four offices in the agency's Philadelphia District Office, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov . Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.