DOJ: County retaliated in sexual harassment case

September 25, 2009 4:02:08 PM PDT
The US Department of Justice has filed a federal lawsuit against Franklin County, alleging the county retaliated against a former employee who claimed she was sexually harassed.Franklin County is accused of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII prohibits employment discrimination and retaliation against employees for opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe are discriminatory or for filing a complaint of employment discrimination.

"All workers deserve the freedom to go to work each day without fear of discrimination," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King of the Civil Rights Division. "Public employers should set an example for others by upholding the law and taking prompt and effective action to stop discrimination and retaliation. The Department of Justice will vigorously pursue such violations of Title VII."

The Justice Department complaint against Franklin County sites an incident that involved Karen Dorrans,a former employee of the Department of Public Utilities in Louisburg. She initially filed her complaint of sexual harassment by a co-worker to her supervisor and human resources manager at the Department of Public Utilities.

According to court documents, the co-worker's name is Mark Prowell.

Dorrans told Eyewitness News the man put his hand to his groin area in her clear view and watched her obsessively around the workplace.

Dorrans said she felt uncomfortable and filed a grievance.

According to the Justice Department, Franklin County told Dorrans that in order to consider her grievance she must first confront her alleged harasser.

Dorrans did not confront the person and as a result said she was disciplined. According to the Justice Department complaint, Franklin County extended her probationary period of employment by six months, which denied her a salary increase.

The County also issued a disciplinary "final warning" against her, which lowered her job performance ratings.

The Justice Department is asking the court to take steps that ensure a non-retaliatory workplace for its employees and provide Dorrans with back pay with interest and compensatory damages.

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