The U.S. Justice Department announced on Wednesday a resolution in a lawsuit against the American Samoa Government (ASG) over claims that they treated a former employee unfairly because she is transgender. This violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which stops workplace discrimination based on factors like sex and gender identity.
A consent decree was approved by the court—it ordered ASG to pay $125,000 to compensate Simeonica Tuiteleleapaga for the harassment she suffered at the hands of her supervisor. It also requires the ASG to adopt new policies and procedures to handle sex based discrimination complaints and to provide its employees training on these new policies.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said, “No employee should have to tolerate a supervisor’s hostile comments about their gender identity.”
The lawsuit said Tuiteleleapaga’s boss, Meki Solomona, who was in charge of the ASG’s Department of Human and Social Services, harassed her and another transgender worker on multiple occasions, despite employees’ complaints about Solomona’s behavior.
One particularly embarrassing incident happened during a department-wide meeting when Solomona publicly targeted Tuiteleleapaga, threatened her job, asked her if she was a “girl or a boy” and told her to “[t]ake it off” and “let us see if you are a woman.”
After Tuiteleleapaga left the meeting in tears, Solomona continued his tirade for 40 minutes, repeatedly referring to her as a “thing” or an “it.” Throughout all of this, ASG did nothing to stop him.
The Hawaii District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigated and attempted to resolve Tuiteleleapaga’s charge of discrimination before referring it to the Justice Department as an enforcement action.
For more information about EEOC, go to eeoc.gov.