City of Chattanooga punished woman who filed sexual harassment complaint

City of Chattanooga punished woman who filed sexual harassment complaint

September 9th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Paul Page, Chattanooga's director of general services

A Chattanooga administrator sexually harassed a female employee and the city responded to her complaint by retaliating against her, according to a federal investigation.

Paul Page, the city's director of general services, confirmed Thursday he was the target of an investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

He said the allegations stemmed from a sexual harassment investigation conducted three years ago.

"It is exactly the same [case]," he said.

But a letter from the Sarah Smith, the EEOC's area director, shows the harassment claim was a second complaint, filed two months after the first allegations that Page made inappropriate comments to city employees. The letter states the EEOC investigation revealed the city had "received a prior complaint of sexual harassment."

The first complaint was filed on Oct. 24, 2008, and the second complaint in December 2008.

Smith states several times in the EEOC letter that the female employee, along with other employees, were "sexually harassed and retaliated against."

The letter says the city retaliated against the employee by "reassigning her to a different position, at a different location." It states that the city claims the employee lost any protected privilege because she did not want to pursue the sexual harassment claim.

City officials refused to say whether the allegations involved more than one complainant, but several sources said privately Thursday that the complaints were filed by different women.

City Attorney Mike McMahan said he would not comment because the city regards the matter as pending litigation. Smith did not respond to repeated calls.

Page was disciplined in November 2008 after an independent investigation found he violated sexual harassment policies. He was found to have made comments about women's breasts, sexual practices and female employees' clothing, and to have made inappropriate jokes.

At the time, he was warned any recurrence or retaliation would result in immediate termination.

Page said Thursday the EEOC determination of sexual harassment is not surprising.

"It's just going through the system," he said.

Page said he had not heard about any discipline from the city.

"We'll have to sit down and talk about it," he said.

Smith's letter said the EEOC will contact the city and the female employee to come to a conclusion on the matter.

If the matter cannot be resolved, it could result in court action, the letter states.

City officials declined Thursday to say whether they would fight the action in court or take any other disciplinary action against Page.