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Settlement Reached In Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Cumberland Co.

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Settlement Reached In Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Cumberland Co.

Cumberland County has reached a settlement of $1.1 million to the United States Justice Department for a sexual harassment lawsuit.

The county was sued after former Solid Waste Director Mike Harvel allegedly discriminated against ten female employees from 2015 to 2018. The money will be paid to the victims for compensatory damages after being sexually harassed in the workplace by Harvel.

Cumberland County will also revise its policies, procedures and training to better prevent future incidents.

“Today’s resolution, through settlement, will bring some measure of closure and vindication to the vulnerable women who were victimized by the egregious and abusive behavior in this case,” said Pamela S. Karlan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “Sexual harassment must not be tolerated in the workplace, and we remain committed to eliminating it root and branch through our vigorous enforcement of Title VII.”

The Justice Department’s complaint, filed March 8, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, alleged, among other things, that Cumberland County failed to take adequate precautions to prevent the former director of the County’s Solid Waste Department from sexually harassing the women.

“No individual should have to endure the unwanted sexual advances of another, especially from someone who wields a position of authority over another as alleged here,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Mary Jane Stewart. “We will seek all available remedies to address such unwanted and unlawful conduct and will continue to protect the civil rights of all of our citizens. They deserve nothing less.”

According to the complaint, the former director regularly subjected the women, who all worked for him, to unwanted sexual contact, including kissing and groping; unwelcome sexual advances, including propositioning the women for sexual favors; and offensive sexual remarks about their bodies and sex acts. The former director has been indicted on criminal charges and is awaiting trial in state court.

“State and local governments are among our largest employers. It is important that they understand that the federal anti-discrimination laws also apply to them,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, District Director of the Memphis District of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). “The egregious sexual harassment that these women were subjected to contravenes Title VII. The EEOC will continue to collaborate with the Justice Department to ensure the protection of our workers in governmental workplaces.”

Four of the women had filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC. The EEOC’s Nashville Area Office, in its Memphis District, investigated the charges and found reasonable cause to believe Cumberland County discriminated against the four women and other similarly situated employees.

After unsuccessful conciliation efforts, the EEOC referred the charges to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The Justice Department brought this lawsuit as part of a joint effort to enhance collaboration between the Department and the EEOC in the vigorous enforcement of Title VII.


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