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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Alleging Retaliation by the Town of Rome, Wisconsin

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a consent decree with the town of Rome, Wis., to resolve allegations that the town retaliated against an employee after she made a complaint of discrimination based on sex.


In addition to reaching the consent decree, the Justice Department also filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin specifically alleging that the town of Rome violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by retaliating against a female police officer for complaining about what she reasonably believed to be sex discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion. Title VII also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an individual for opposing any employment practice that would violate Title VII, for filing a discrimination charge or for assisting in the investigation of such a charge.


According to the Justice Department’s complaint, Jolene Orlowski complained to Rome’s chief of police that she was being discriminated against because of her sex. Within two weeks of Orlowski’s complaint of sex discrimination, Rome terminated her employment. According to the Justice Department’s complaint, Rome terminated Orlowski in retaliation for opposing what she reasonably believed was unlawful sex discrimination.


Under the terms of the consent decree, which must still be approved by the federal court, the town must offer to reemploy Orlowski as a police officer. The town must also pay her $351,891 in monetary relief, including back pay with interest, outstanding tuition reimbursements and compensatory damages. In addition, the town must review and adopt appropriate policies to protect its employees from discrimination and retaliation, and conduct training of its police department personnel to ensure that they properly handle future complaints of discrimination.


“If employees reasonably believe that sex discrimination has occurred in the workplace, the employees must be able to bring that concern to management’s attention without fear of the employer retaliating against them for speaking out,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Title VII not only protects those who have suffered discrimination, it also protects those who alert the employer to discrimination in the workplace. We will not tolerate public employers retaliating against their employees who report claims of unlawful discrimination.”


John W. Vaudreuil, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, stated, “This consent decree with the town of Rome reaffirms—once again—the Justice Department’s commitment to aggressively enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws.  Discrimination in all its forms is unacceptable.”


The continued enforcement of Title VII has been a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/.

Press Release Number: 
Updated September 15, 2014