Wyoming Military Department Found Liable for Subjecting Employee to Sexual Harassment
The Justice Department announced that on March 21, 2018, a federal district court in Casper, Wyoming, found that the Wyoming Military Department (WMD) discriminated against former employee Amanda Dykes by subjecting her to sexual harassment and constructively discharging her. The verdict was returned after a July 2017 bench trial during which the Justice Department produced evidence that the defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.
The evidence produced at trial showed that Dykes was subjected to sexual harassment by her direct supervisor, former employee Don Smith, when both worked at WMD’s Wyoming Youth Challenge Program. Smith subjected Dykes to persistent, unwelcomed conduct including poems, songs, and emails professing his affection and love for her as well as constant visits to her office. These intensified to such a degree that Dykes asked her subordinates to help her avoid being left alone with her supervisor.
Dykes reported the supervisor’s conduct to her employer’s human resources department as well as to his direct supervisor, but received no assistance in remedying the harassment. The court found that harassing behavior persisted for over 18 months despite Dykes’ numerous complaints, that no reasonable employee could be expected to remain in her job under these circumstances, and that Dykes had no choice but to resign her position in September 2011 to avoid the continued harassment.
The district court ordered WMD to pay $221,030.62 to Dykes for the salary and benefits she lost as a result of her constructive discharge.
This judgment represents the first successful sexual harassment trial verdict obtained in a Title VII case since the launch of the Civil Rights Division’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative (SHWI), which focuses on workplace sexual harassment in the public sector.
As part of the Initiative, the Justice Department will continue to bring sex discrimination claims against state and local government employers with a renewed emphasis on sexual harassment charges. The Department will also work to develop effective remedial measures that can be used to hold public sector employers accountable where Title VII violations have been found, including identifying changes to existing employer practices and policies that will result in safe work environments. More information about the Civil Rights’ Division’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative can be found here.
“The Justice Department vigorously enforces Title VII to ensure that people can work free from sexual harassment and retaliation,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The verdict sends the clear message that this Justice Department will continue to effectively combat sex-based discrimination whenever it occurs in a public sector workplace.”
Dykes originally filed her sexual harassment charge against the WMD with the Denver Field Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which investigated and determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discrimination had occurred and referred the matters to the Department of Justice.
More information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available at the division’s Employment Litigation Section website. The continued enforcement of Title VII is a priority of the Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is available on the division website.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website.
The United States was represented in this case by Robert Galbreath, Torie Atkinson, Brian McEntire, and Patty Stasco.