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August 20, 2012 / Michael Boyamian

Federal Lawsuit Against Department of Homeland Security Alleges Male Staffers Were Subjected to Gender Discrimination & Harassment

A federal discrimination lawsuit accuses the Department of Homeland Security harassing and discriminating against male staffers. As reported in the New York Daily News, the suit was initiated by James Hayes Jr., who now is a high-ranking Homeland Security official in New York.  Hayes claims that  hired two female friends who tormented male employees and treated them like “lapdogs.” The suit identified them as Dora Schriro, who is now running New York City’s Department of Correction, and Suzanne Barr, the chief of staff for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the Daily News, the suit alleges that Schriro and Barr engaged in a campaign of harassment against male staffers, including the following events:

  • Barr allegedly  “moved the entire contents of the offices of three employees, including name plates, computers and telephones, to the men’s bathroom at ICE headquarters;”
  • Barr allegedly stole a male staffer’s BlackBerry and fired off a message to his female supervisor indicating that he “had a crush on [her] and fantasized about her;” and
  • Barr allegedly called a male colleague in his hotel room and screamed at him using sexually humiliating language.

Hayes, who was named as the special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (“ICE”) New York field office in October of 2009, claims that after he reported the abuse to the Equal Employment Opportunity office, Napolitano launched a series of misconduct investigations against him. Hayes claims he was denied a valuable promotion and was systematically pushed aside while working out of ICE’s Washington office. The suit alleges that Schriro was named the special adviser to Secretary Napolitano on Detention and Removal Operations and began to replace Hayes at meetings despite having no “experience in managing a federal law enforcement department.”Hayes is seeking relief for $335,000 in damages.

Federal laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, prohibit employment discrimination and harassment based on race, color, creed, national origin, age, or sex. Although the lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security is pending in federal court, workplace discrimination and harassment is prohibited in California and in other states through virtually identical laws. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits an employer from discriminating against a worker on the basis of race, religion, gender, marital status, gender identity, medical condition (cancer & HIV/AIDS), age, national origin, pregnancy, disability. California law further protects employees who suffer retaliation for engaging in protected conduct, such as making internal complaints or exercising their legal rights.

If you believe you have been subjected to harassment because of your gender or because of your membership in any of the above categories, contact the attorneys at Khorrami, LLP  for an immediate and confidential evaluation.

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