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N. Carolina emergency communications worker settles lawsuit

November 3, 2021 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice has reached a settlement in a lawsuit it filed against a North Carolina county alleging that an emergency communications unit engaged in unlawful retaliation when it fired a worker who told supervisors that she had been sexually harassed on the job.

A news release from the department Wednesday said that under the terms of a consent decree, Wilson County will develop and submit for approval revised discrimination and retaliation policies, investigation procedures for complaints of discrimination and trainings that will apply countywide. The consent decree further requires Wilson County to pay Jennifer Riddle $100,000 in compensatory damages and back pay.

Riddle began working as a trainee for Wilson County Emergency Communications in 2017 and was soon sexually harassed by the agency’s assistant director, the department said. The original filing said Riddle complained of the harassment and an investigation substantiated her claims, leading to the assistant director being fired.

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After the firing, the lawsuit said, Riddle began experiencing hostility from her supervisor and co-workers, leading to a transfer and, eventually, her firing when she reported to the supervisors on her new shift that she had previously been sexually harassed and the department hadn’t effectively dealt with her harasser.

Federal authorities argued the county’s actions violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which not only prohibits employer discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion, but also retaliation against employees for engaging in activities protected by the law, such as complaining about discrimination, a news release said earlier this year.