The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission secured a $155,000 settlement against a federal contractor in a workplace discrimination case last week, triggering a call from one LGBT advocacy group for action from the Obama administration to address the issue further.
On Jan. 6, EEOC announced that DynCorp International LLC, a military contractor and aircraft maintenance company in Fairfax, Va., agreed to pay $155,000 in relief in a sex-based discrimination case.
The case involves James Friso, a straight aircraft sheet metal/structural mechanic working in Taji, Iraq, who was allegedly subjected to gender-based harassment — including anti-gay epithets — by a male co-worker.
According to the EEOC complaint, one of Friso’s male co-workers began making derogatory sex-based comments to Friso on a daily basis around November 2006. The co-worker allegedly called Friso “faggot,” “dick-sucker,” and “queer” on a daily basis.
Other comments allegedly referenced Friso’s stature, who’s five-feet, four inches tall, including “whiney little bitch,” “short little mother fucker” and “short little bitch.”
Additionally, the co-worker accused Friso of engaging in homosexual acts, even though the co-workers knew Friso was married to a woman. The co-worker allegedly made this comment in front of management, but no action was taken.
The complaint states Friso regularly complained to DynCorp management, but no action was taken. After continued complaints, managers allegedly told Friso they “would get rid of him.”
That eventually came to pass. Friso was transferred to Mannheim, Germany to a post with lower pay. The co-worker who allegedly subjected to Friso to sex-based discrimination continued to work at Taji.
EEOC filed a complaint in August 2011 in federal district court in Virginia on the basis that the sex-based discrimination violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The announcement on Friday was the result of that complaint.
In addition to agreeing to pay $155,000 in relief to Friso, DynCorp must provide anti-harassment and anti-retaliation training to managers and human resource personnel. DynCorp is also enjoined from engaging in further sex-based harassment or retaliation and has agreed to allow EEOC to monitor it for the decree’s term.
Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District, whose jurisdiction includes Virginia, said in a statement the result of the case is a reminder that sex-based discrimination shouldn’t be tolerated.
“This lawsuit should remind employers that employees have a legal right to a workplace free of harassment, including harassment based on sex-based stereotypes,” Barnes said. “Employers must be careful about allowing comments concerning sexual orientation to be made in the workplace because if those comments are based on sexual stereotyping, they might violate the law.”
But Ashley Burke, a spokesperson for DynCorp, denied the company engaged in any wrongdoing even though it accepted the terms of the settlement.
“The Company was not involved in any wrongdoing and wholly denies all of the allegations contained in the Complaint,” Burke said. “This case involves a personal dispute that occurred five years ago, and the alleged harasser is no longer with the Company. We are pleased to put the matter behind us.”
One LGBT workplace rights advocate said the incident calls for additional administrative action from the Obama administration.
Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, took issue with the consent decree in the case for not mentioning sexual orientation.
“The company will not have to add sexual orientation or gender identity to its non-discrimination policy,” Almeida said. “Even after this case, DynCorp can discriminate against LGBT employees while getting fat on billions of dollars in taxpayer money.”
Almeida said the action against DynCorp demonstrates the need for an executive order prohibiting federal dollars from going to companies that do not have non-discrimination protections for employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The members of the civil rights enforcement team at the Department of Labor currently have their hands tied and are not allowed to investigate federal contractors like DynCorp for discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation because President Obama has not yet signed the ENDA executive order,” Almeida said.
DynCorp receives more than 96 percent of its revenue from federal contracts that amount to $2 billion each year, making it the 32nd largest federal contractor, according to Freedom to Work. However, protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity aren’t included in the company’s non-discrimination policy.
The “ENDA” executive order is so named because it would be similar to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination against LGBT people.
The order would enable LGBT Americans who face workplace discrimination to file complaints with the Labor Department. Possible remedies include payment of back wages or reinstatement for LGBT employees who faced discrimination.
Almeida has called on Obama to issue the executive order before, and now says he’s “optimistic” that Obama will sign the order in early 2012.
“During just the past few months alone, the president has taken more than 20 strong executive actions under the slogan ‘We Can’t Wait’ for the current dysfunctional Congress to act,” Almeida said. “It’s a logical next step to sign an executive order granting LGBT Americans the freedom to work for federal contractors without fear of discrimination or harassment on the job.”
The White House hasn’t said whether it would be open to issuing such an executive order despite the president’s support for ENDA.
DynCorp’s Burke insisted the company already has protections in place for its workers, saying the company “encourages a positive, supportive work environment where harassment or retaliation of any kind is simply not tolerated.”
“In addition to anti-harassment training provided to all new hires, personnel receive refresher training, anti-harassment policies are posted throughout worksites, and our Code of Ethics and Business Conduct clearly states the Company’s zero tolerance of harassment and retaliation,” Burke said.
In the early 2000s, a DynCorp employee who alleged that company workers in Bosnia had purchased young women from brothels and kept them as sex slaves was terminated from her job and later won a $173,000 judgment from an employment tribunal in Britain.
In May 2008, a federal jury ordered DynCorp to pay $15 million to a minority-owned telecommunications contractor that charged DynCorp with terminating a contract on the basis of racial discrimination, according to the Washington Post.
Asked whether the settlement has prompted DynCorp to reconsider its non-discrimination policy, Burke replied, “Although there was no wrongdoing on the part of the Company identified in this case, we are always looking for ways to further strengthen our policies and procedures and this is one area that we are currently examining.”