DOJ announces second sexual harassment in workplace lawsuit

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For the second time this year, the Justice Department is taking action against alleged perpetrators of sexual harassment in the workplace as part of an initiative to combat the problem.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit against a government contractor providing support to teachers in Allegan County, Michigan, on behalf of two teachers who say they were subjected to sexual harassment at work.

The suit alleges that the two women faced harassment by their former principal at the school where they worked. The DOJ alleges that the two teachers were subjected to “verbal abuse as well as unwanted physical touching that escalated to physical assaults,” the Justice Department said.

The principal, according to the DOJ, was later convicted of criminal assault and the federal government says the contracting group, Allegan Area Educational Service Agency, did nothing to stop the harassment.

“All Americans are entitled to a workplace that is free of unlawful harassment based on sex,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

“The types of discriminatory acts alleged in this lawsuit, resulting in these public sector employees suffering years of verbal and emotional abuse and ending with physical assaults, can be prevented only when employers cultivate workplace environments where workers know that such misconduct will not be tolerated,” Gore said.

In a statement to ABC News, AAESA said it is working with the Department of Justice to resolve the complaint and noted that it acted immediately once it was brought to its attention.

“AAESA abhors unlawful and criminal acts of sexual harassment in the workplace. We are, have been, and will continue to be, proactive in training all employees with regards to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying,” school system superintendent William Brown said.

“In addition, we will continue to take corrective action when informed of such violations,” Brown said.

DOJ’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative began in February and DOJ’s first lawsuit was brought against the City of Houston, alleging that the Houston Fire Department discriminated against two female firefighters.

That complaint alleged that male firefighters were urinating on walls and sinks of the women’s bathroom, disconnecting cold water in the women’s bathroom and had removed the speakers so female firefighters couldn’t respond to calls.

There was also an allegation of death threats and slurs written on the walls and station living spaces. The City of Houston says the incident happened more than 10 years ago and that the federal government has long been aware.

“After a thorough investigation, the City could not substantiate the claims of the plaintiffs when they were made; nor has the City been able to resolve the claims asserted on a mutually agreeable basis. Accordingly, the City will defend itself,” it said in a statement. “The City does not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment.”

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