Civilian Employee’s Hostile Work Environment Suit Leads to Significant Settlement with the U.S. Army
Washington, D.C. | May 1, 2019 — Shawlawn Beckford, an active duty veteran and a current civilian employee of the Army, reached a significant settlement agreement with the United States Department of the Army in connection with Title VII claims she brought against Secretary Mark T. Esper in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The settlement resolves Ms. Beckford’s suit alleging that, during her tenure as a management employee of the Clinical Support Division at the Brian Allgood Army Community Hospital (“BAACH”) in Yongsan, Seoul, South Korea, she endured overt racial and gender discrimination at the hands of four separate Army officers, the majority of whom were her superiors holding high-ranking leadership positions at the hospital.
“Ms. Beckford courageously spoke up to uncover and to help rectify what she alleges was a toxic and pervasive culture of abuse towards women and minorities at BAACH,” said Ms. Beckford’s attorney, Katie Cooper, with Kellogg Hansen. “Not only is this settlement a significant accomplishment in Ms. Beckford’s efforts to hold the Army accountable for the abusive treatment that she suffered, but it is also a testament to Ms. Beckford’s deep commitment to the Army as an institution, and to her commitment to ensuring that civilian employees on Army installations worldwide are treated equally regardless of their race or gender. We are immensely proud of Ms. Beckford’s dedication to and continued service in the Army.”
As detailed in Ms. Beckford’s complaint, she alleged that she confronted harassment over the course of five years in the form of frequent and hateful racial and gendered slurs directed at her and others, as well as demands that she perform degrading tasks outside of her job duties because of her gender. She further alleged that, prior to filing her lawsuit, she repeatedly attempted to resolve her grievances with the Army through its internal Equal Employment Opportunity procedures, but the Army largely ignored and dismissed her concerns. Instead, she claimed that the Army exacerbated the hostile work environment she confronted by retaliating against her for reporting the harassment at BAACH.
“As a civilian employee it is my duty to represent and uphold the Army’s mission, vision, and leadership philosophy – in or out of uniform,” said Ms. Beckford. “But I am more than a position. I am a person with feelings and emotions, and I was mistreated in a system that failed to protect me. Despite what I have endured, my love for the Army has not changed. However, it is important to me that the Army answers for its actions. My case was never about money, but about being treated equally and fairly as an Army civilian. I hope this case is a reminder that we should never be a silent voice, and that the only way to make a change is to be a part of it.”
Ms. Beckford was represented by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick, P.L.L.C. The Kaplan Law firm served as Virginia local counsel.
“Ms. Beckford is a true public servant for fighting back in the face of such a pervasive culture of racism and sexism,” said Dennis A. Corkery, Counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. “The Armed Forces are supposed to be the world’s greatest meritocracy. This settlement – and the extreme nature of the misconduct that Ms. Beckford experienced, which was perpetrated by multiple people – needs to be a wake-up call for the Department of the Army that more needs to be done for civilian women of color in order to live up to that reputation.”
Michelle Kimmel | firstname.lastname@example.org | 202-367-7840
Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick, P.L.L.C.
Gregg Kelley | email@example.com | 202-319-1070
Washington Lawyers’ Committee
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Founded in 1968, The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combating and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression. For more information, please visit www.washlaw.org or call 202.319.1000. Follow us on Twitter at @WashLaw4CR.