A female border agent who was employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in northern Maine claimed that her boss and some male co-workers who were members of a fundamentalist church created a hostile work environment for her based upon her gender and religion because “they have very strong views about a women’s role in society, as well as religion.” She was ultimately fired, and is now working as a store clerk.
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network has reported that she just settled her religious and sexual discrimination case for $285,000.
She alleged that she was bullied, physically harassed, and at the instigation of the supervisor was “sometimes given the silent treatment by her colleagues.” Her attorney said that “There were frequent comments by Supervisor Pease, to the effect of – and these are direct quotes: `A woman’s place is 50 feet from the oven. My wife is well-trained – she should have dinner hot and ready for me when I come home.'”
The supervisor found out that plaintiff was getting divorced, and told her: “`You’re getting a divorce, you’re going to hell, you realize that? … In your religion [she is Catholic] and anybody’s religion, you’re going to hell. You got a divorce you’re going to hell.”
When she filed a charge with the EEOC, things got worse: “As time went on and the hostile work environment increased, and the bullying increased, it was awful. It was difficult to go to work everyday. I couldn’t wait to get out of there to go home. I got violently ill on the way to work most days.”
Personal observation: This case is posted because it happened in the workplace. However, the issue is not merely an employment matter, but a societal matter. In traditional societies or groups, efforts at “modernization,” or attempts to change or break traditional cultural models — especially rapidly — often result in death-grip holds on the old ways by those who feel most threatened by any change. This can lead to or include harassment, as we have seen in the case above, or other efforts to “hold back the modern” such as attempts to pass laws which make it difficult for women to work, restrict birth control or abortion, create disparate wages, etc. What can be done? Seems that besides relevant and appropriate legislation, there must be education, outreach and diversity sensitivity training, and social condemnation for acts infringing upon the rights of others.