The National Guard must pay a former employee more than $231,000 after failing to adequately investigate her complaint of repeated sexual harassment, an administrative judge has ruled.
The amount of the award to Vikki Rouleau is “extraordinarily high” for a case involving a federal worker, said her attorney, Josh Bowers, in an interview Friday.
Rouleau had been a GS-9 technician with the District of Columbia National Guard stationed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. She resigned in November 2010 following a co-worker’s “numerous unwanted advances” that included slapping her on the buttocks, according to the Feb. 28 ruling by Judge David Norkin of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Although Rouleau reported the harassment while still with the Guard, the agency’s EEO director failed to explain her right to file a formal complaint. After being reassigned to clerical duties, she also felt that she was being punished for speaking up, according to a summary of the proceedings in Norkin’s ruling.
When Rouleau proceeded with filing a formal complaint in August 2011, the Guard bumbled its handling of the investigation to the point that it was “as good as useless,” Norkin wrote in an earlier decision that found the agency liable for damages.
After leaving her Guard job, Rouleau found work elsewhere in the Defense Department, but at a lower-graded position. “She makes sure her door is open and chooses not to be alone with men at work,” Norkin wrote. The total of $231,425 in damages includes some $37,000 to pay for three years of psychiatric visits and anti-depressant medications.
A National Guard Bureau attorney could not be reached for comment Friday; a spokesman for the D.C. Guard declined comment because the case is still in litigation. The Guard can appeal the decision to the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations.
Rouleau’s case was not unique to the Guard’s operations at Andrews, Bowers said. “It was a place run amok with sexual harassment and managers ignoring complaints,” he said. Bowers also represented Theresa Devine, another former Guard employee at Andrews in a separate sexual harassment case settled on undisclosed terms.
Devine’s supervisor pursued her for several months, sending flowers to her home and telling co-workers that he hired her just to have sex, she told a Maryland legislative panel Friday. Attempts to get help from her chain of command were fruitless, Devine said, according to prepared testimony in support of a state bill that would make any damages awarded for physical and emotional injuries tax-free.
“When I joined the Air National Guard, all I wanted to do was serve my country with honor and obtain a stable civilian job during the week to care for my family,” Devine said in her testimony. “Instead, what I got was betrayal by my supervision on several occasions.”