The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission‘s Atlanta office has determined that a supervisor in the Hall County Tax Assessor’s Office sexually harassed a female employee.
The commission is seeking a settlement for Pam Dixon in the amount of $100,000.
But attorneys for the county Board of Tax Assessors say the decision “was clearly erroneous and should be reversed,” according to a letter written by attorney Benton Mathis.
Mathis has asked the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to reconsider its decision.
Dixon, in 2009, charged that her supervisor, Richard Lathem “ran his finger from the bottom of her neck to about three quarters of the way down her back” on separate occasions in September 2007, February 2008 and August 2008.
Dixon, a personal property auditor, is still employed by the county. Her complaint also alleged that Lathem opened a door to the bathroom Dixon was using and, on another occasion, put his hands on her shoulders as though to massage them.
She also charged that Lathem gave her poor performance ratings on an employee evaluation after she spoke out against his conduct.
Dixon received a low rating on a section of her personnel evaluation regarding her ability to conform to departmental rules and procedures after she went to Human Resources Director Linda Pryor with an informal complaint.
An independent investigator — local attorney Sam Harben — hired by the county in November 2009 determined that Dixon had not been sexually harassed by Lathem, nor had she been retaliated against.
Harben recommended the board of tax assessors change Dixon’s personnel evaluation, however, which Mathis stated had been done.
But Dixon charged in a memo to Pryor that Lathem’s actions were affecting her ability to work — a charge the county has denied, citing Dixon’s above average ratings on her personnel evaluations.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said the evidence it has gathered indicates both that Dixon was sexually harassed by Lathem and discriminated against because of her gender.
It has made a series of demands including requesting that the county pay Dixon $100,000 for damages.
In her July 22, 2009, performance evaluation, Dixon was given an overall evaluation score of 4.6 out of a possible 5.
The highest score handed out in her department that year, according to the attorney’s letter, was 4.69.
“...It is illogical for (Dixon) to allege that Mr. Lathem’s allegedly boorish negatively impacted her work performance when that performance was actually so good as to earn a very high evaluation rating,” Mathis wrote.
In its letter of response, the county’s attorney cites numerous court decisions in which employees claimed sex-based hostile work environments, but the courts determined the complaints were not severe enough for the designation.
Included in those court cases are incidences of a supervisor asking an employee on the phone if she was naked and a supervisor telling an employee he became sexually excited when she walked into the room.