Friday, November 21, 2014

Court rejects sex harassment case

A woman who sued a USAID contractor for sexual harassment in Venezuela lost her case on appeal, court documents show.
Heather Rome had worked for Development Alternatives Inc., the same company that sent American development worker Alan Gross to Cuba.
Rome was based in Caracas, where DAI was carrying out a project aimed at undermining the government of Hugo Chavez. In 2011, she accused the head of DAI's Venezuela project, Eduardo Fernandez, of misogynistic conduct, according to her lawsuit, filed on Oct. 18, 2011.
Rome said Fernandez harassed and screamed at female subordinates and complained that their office was "as inefficient as a brothel."
Rome said in a court brief:
Examples of Fernandez’s more belligerent and childish behavior catalogued by DAI’s HR Director included:
  • Fernandez uses inappropriate words and gestures when he speaks about females - this is done in the presence of other females and the client
  • Fernandez refers to females as “pussies”
  • Fernandez makes gestures indicating female “boobs” when he refers to certain female visitors
  • Fernandez told the office staff “if DAI girls learn to keep the pill between their legs then we would not have to pay for maternity insurance”
  • Fernandez creates a very hostile work environment when he screamed and shouted at the staff, almost on a daily basis
The court brief continued:
She was labeled a problem employee and told that she needed a major attitude change.
DAI eventually dismissed Rome. The brief stated:
Ms. Rome’s dismissal occurred only three and half months after DAI’s own HR department concluded that it is “very apparent that Eduardo demonstrates unacceptable behaviors that are in conflict with DAI norms and values. His behavior also puts DAI at risk of having a discrimination and or harassment charge brought against the organization.”
Document showing accusations
Rome asked for $600,000 in damages. The court brief said:
Few better examples exist of an adverse employment action and a constructive termination. The job which she held for three years and excelled at was suddenly being taken from her on the heels of having reported conduct that even DAI’s Director of Human Relations found unacceptable. She left Venezuela with DAI’s permission on a temporary basis, was expected to return, and had every intention of returning. Shortly thereafter, however, DAI used her leaving as an opportunity to replace her entirely on the program. It became clear that although DAI began this process and informed everyone, it failed to tell Ms. Rome until she was about to return.
Instant Message from Rome to colleague
In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Rome didn't provide enough evidence to prove her case.
Court documents are below:
  • The Appeals Court decision, 10 pages
  • An 89-megabite PDF containing depositions and other documents, 1338 pages (Google Docs can't preview this document because it's too big, but you can download it).
  • Rome's November 2013 court brief, 42 pages
  • DAI's December 2013 court brief, 40 pages

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