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Immigration agency confronts federal employment suit

Indiana residents will be interested to learn that a recently lawsuit is taking a look at the nation's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The suit was filed by a federal immigration senior official. The official, a male, claims that he is the victim of longstanding discrimination and sexual harassment within the workplace. The sole defendant in the filing is Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security.

According to the suit, the plaintiff was removed from an upper management position in the agency so that a woman, whom he claims was not as well qualified as he, could have the slot. In addition, he claims that the agency's female chief of staff regularly engaged in 'sexually offensive behavior' that created a discriminatory work environment for male employees. That claim is under internal review, and the chief of staff has stepped down from her position voluntarily to await the outcome of the investigation.

The union for more than 7,000 customs enforcement agents has been openly critical of the director of the agency, and recently posted an online petition asking members and the public to support ICE officers who are 'upholding the law.' While the petition does not specifically mention this suit or the official who filed it, it has garnered a great deal of public attention. There are over 55,000 online signatures.

Ultimately, the lawsuit claims that the workplace was turned into 'a frat house-type atmosphere' that led to humiliation and intimidation of male employees. The agency has stated that they will 'respond strongly' to the allegations in court. The suit is asking for lost wages, an unpaid relocation bonus and $335,000 in moving expenses.

This case demonstrates that sexual harassment and discrimination can occur at all levels of employment. In addition, the victims of such mistreatment are not always female. Anyone who feels that they have been subjected to similar types of treatment within the workplace may benefit from exploring their options for legal recourse in the matter.

Source: The New York Times, "Immigration Agency Accused of Bias Against Men," Kirk Semple, Aug. 21, 2012

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