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Homeland Security Sex Discrimination Case Makes Headlines

A recent employment discrimination lawsuit involving the
Department of Homeland Security has been making news recently both for the case’s
facts and the people involved. James T. Hayes, head of the Department’s New
York Field Office for Customs and Enforcement, filed a suit alleging
discrimination
under former Immigration and Customs Chief of Staff Suzanne
Barr. Hayes alleged Title VII sex discrimination and retaliation claims in his
May 21 complaint.

The complaint’s most salacious accusation is that Barr “moved
the entire contents of the offices of three male employees, including name
plates, computers, and telephones, to the men’s bathroom.” Hayes also alleged
that Barr attempted to fire him without cause and that on a number of occasions
Barr used sexually offensive behavior in her dealings with male employees. Hayes’
gender discrimination claim under Title VII is primarily based on his
allegations that he was replaced by a female employee despite her lack of
pertinent experience.  He further claims
that, once he informed the Department of his intention to file a claim with the
EEOC, he was subject to six internal misconduct investigations as retaliation.
After filing his EEOC claim, Hayes claims the retaliation continued in the form
of the denial of relocation bonuses and denied a transfer within the agency as
punishment.

Suzanne Barr resigned on September 1 following
the publication of Hayes’ accusations, citing her desire to escape the
unfounded accusations and prevent distractions to the Department’s mission. Representative
Peter King, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee,
promised to launch an investigation when Congress returns from its August
break. Morris Fischer, the lawyer representing Hayes, stated yesterday that a
federal magistrate judge in D.C. will mediate the case after the DOJ agreed to
a possible settlement. A lesson for employers is that when considering a
possible Title VII discrimination case, efforts at retaliation will only result
in a stronger claim for the employee, and with the likelihood of greater
damages awarded. As always, please consult an attorney when faced with
discriminatory action by an employer in order to protect your right as an
employee to a discrimination-free workplace.