Abuse Shelter Settles Retaliation Suit

June 6, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A Columbia, Missouri, shelter for women who have been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse has agreed to pay $103,000 to settle a lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for retaliating against employees for reporting sexual harassment by the shelter’s executive director.


According to the EEOC’s suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri (Civil Action No. 2:10-4216), Nancy Gause and Tracie Lawson, who were co-directors of the shelter at the time, alerted board of directors members that Executive Director Leigh Voltmer had touched staff members inappropriately on several occasions. Voltmer was the highest-ranking employee at the shelter. Gause said she was complaining on behalf of staff members whom she supervised. 


An EEOC news release said less than two weeks after making the complaint, Gause was terminated and Lawson was demoted and her salary was cut. Both women had received positive feedback regarding their performance during their tenure as employees, but were terminated without warning, allegedly for poor performance. Following the board’s actions, other employees came forward and complained about a hostile environment created by Voltmer.