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RLO Protects ATF Employee from Gender Discrimination

by | Feb 8, 2018 | Employment & Discrimination

Rosen & Goyal, settled a case in favor of a female employee of the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who was disciplined for the sort of conduct that male agents got away with. The Boston Globe discussed the case in an article about sexual harassment at ATF.

RLO attorneys Kavita Goyal and Emilie Grossman handled the case. In it, an ATF intelligence research specialist named Jennifer Norcross was suspended after complaining that female employees had to attend a training session that male agents were allowed to skip. A female colleague told a supervisor: “I guess the penises don’t have to go to the training today; only the vaginas have to go?”

Norcross agreed that female agents were being singled out. She told the other agent, “I would give you a prize if I had one.” The ATF found Norcross displayed “inappropriate behavior” by agreeing with the comment and suspended her for one day, even though Norcross herself said nothing inappropriate. The woman who made the comments received a two-day suspension.

Norcross complained of an unequal treatment since just a month earlier three male agents went undisciplined for their role regarding a sexually suggestive photo shared in the Boston office. The photo showed agent Philip Ball with his pants down at his knees and boxers exposed, standing over Eric Kotchian, who was stretched out on the floor, partially under a desk. Agent Robert White e-mailed the photo to the woman in the office. It wasn’t until Norcross complained about her suspension that Ball and White received reprimands. The after-the-fact reprimands were a less severe sanction than the women received, even though the male agents’ conduct was arguably more offensive.

Goyal and Grossman argued that not only was Norcross’ reprimand evidence of gender discrimination but also that ATF retaliated against her when she supported a female colleague’s complaint about it. The ATF settled the case by paying Norcross $41,000, reducing her suspension to a reprimand, and transferring her to another office.

Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the Globe that law enforcement should be “a guiding example of professionalism and proper conduct,” but his oversight has found that at ATF, “too often, inadequate systems to track and respond to misconduct claims only add insult to injury for harassment or discrimination at work.”