In recent months, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued several decisions awarding compensatory damages to federal employee complainants alleging illegal harassment. Not only do these decisions demonstrate that sexual and other forms of prohibited harassment still exist in the workplace, but they also illustrate the severe and long-term impact harassment can have on the victims.
For example, in Hughes v. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, EEOC Appeal No. 07A100095 (August 30, 2002), the EEOC awarded Hughes, a male, compensatory damages in the amount of $125,000 for being subjected to sexual harassment by his supervisor, also a male. These damages included suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, extreme stress, nightmares, depression, and other effects. Mr. Hughes stated that his marriage failed as a direct result of the harassment. His doctor identified numerous medications prescribed to Mr. Hughes for the various physical effects caused by harassment, including intense symptoms of an overwhelming need to vomit, as well as headaches.
In Viers v. USPS, EEOC Appeal No. 01A14246 (June 20, 2002), the EEOC awarded the complainant $65,000 in compensatory damages due to the harm caused by her supervisor’s sexual harassment over a six-month period. Ms. Viers suffered from fatigue, insomnia, loss of marital harmony, apprehension, excessive anxiety, loss of self-esteem, disinterest, feelings of isolation and fear, depression, worry, humiliation, embarrassment, and a general loss of enjoyment of life, friends, and family. Further, Ms. Viers became withdrawn and was unable to return to work for approximately one year. During this time, Ms. Viers was in counseling but would spend days inactive and did not “keep herself up.” Finally, Ms. Viers was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and aggravation of her pre-existing Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Similarly, in Schinner v. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, EEOC Appeal No. 01A03837 (March 7, 2002), the EEOC awarded the complainant $50,000 in damages due to the agency’s sex and reprisal harassment. Ms. Schinner suffered harm for at least three years, and claimed that the harm would continue into the future. In particular, Ms. Schinner felt humiliated and embarrassed and was isolated and ostracized at work. She also claimed that she no longer sleeps well without medication and has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ms. Schinner also indicated that the harassment affected her at home, including fights with husband because she cannot handle the pressure anymore; being unable to do housework or help her children with homework. Ms. Schinner has been in therapy since the harassment began in 1998.
These decisions demonstrate that sexual and other forms of illegal harassment unfortunately continue to exist in the federal workplace, with long-term negative impacts on the victims
** This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman & Kaplan, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the representation of federal employees worldwide. For more information on Passman & Kaplan, P.C., go to http://www.passmanandkaplan.com. **