Hostile Work Environment and Sex-Based Discrimination Found.
Both Complainants worked as International Broadcasters for the Agency’s International Broadcasting Bureau, Voice of America (VOA). Complainants filed separate EEO complaints alleging, among other things, that the Agency subjected them to a hostile work environment and discrimination based on sex, including denying them promotions, and modifying their television anchor duties. At the conclusion of the investigations for both complaints, the Agency issued two separate decisions which both concluded that Complainants failed to prove their claims. The Commission consolidated the matters on appeal, given that the underlying facts were the same in both complaints. The Commission determined that Complainants both established a prima facie case of discrimination based on sex because they were replaced by male anchors, and all the recipients of the promotion were males.
The Commission then found that the Agency failed to meet its burden to articulate legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for its decisions. Several responsible management officials failed to provide detailed and supported statements regarding the removal of anchor duties and the denial of promotions. For example, one of the responsible management officials repeatedly provided vague statements that were often not supported by the record, or provided statements that were refuted and/or contradicted by other management officials. Moreover, when given several opportunities to clarify his statements by the EEO Investigator, the official failed to substantively respond.
The Commission stated that, even if it determined that the Agency’s explanation was sufficient to meet its burden, Complainants still established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Agency’s explanations were pretextual. The Agency was ordered, among other things, to retroactively promote Complainants with appropriate back pay and benefits, reinstate pertinent television and/or radio duties, investigate Complainants’ claims for compensatory damages, and provide training to the responsible management officials. Madlyn F. & Lashawn C. v. U.S. Agency for Global Media, EEOC Appeal Nos. 2019005498 & 2020003512 (Feb. 9, 2021).
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