EEOC Charge: Veolia Nuclear Solutions Human Resources Explicitly Refuses to End Harassment Against Transgender Employee


Friedman & Houlding LLP represents a transgender female (“Charging Party”), who has filed an EEOC Charge of harassment and retaliation against her former employer Veolia Nuclear Solutions (“Veolia”), a federally contracted company that carries out nuclear energy facility clean-up and waste removal, at its Richland, Washington location. As alleged in her EEOC Charge, Charging Party was forced to quit after filing a complaint of a hostile work environment with Veolia’s Human Resources department. Federal contractors are under a special duty to proactively abide by anti-discrimination laws. The OFCCP is responsible for enforcement.

As a technician at Veolia, Charging Party reported to a Project Manager (“Project Manager”) at the Richland project facility. The Project Manager directed gender-based harassment at Charging Party on an almost daily basis, likening transgender individuals to “freaks” and pedophiles, and when Charging Party later informed Project Manager of her impending gender transition, he intensified the harassment, taunting her with comments about “chopping off her pecker,” and telling her that her gender transitioning was a “mistake” she would regret.

In addition, Project Manager would regularly make bigoted comments, including comments about trans people, on speaker phone, in conversations he had with colleagues and project managers in other facilities, as well as to the then-Director of Technologies—knowing that others, including Charging Party could overhear. Charging Party felt persecuted for just being who she was, knowing that management condoned such vile harassment.

As alleged in her EEOC Charge, following months of Project Manager’s bigoted commentary concerning LBGTQ rights, in or around December 2022, Charging Party began hormone replacement therapy to conform her physical attributes with her gender identity. Around this time, Charging Party was assigned to a nuclear decommissioning project team, which was to have its kick-off in January 2023. A few weeks later, Charging Party contacted Amanda Spriggs-Rhea, head of the Human Resources department of Veolia, to tell  Human Resources that she was transitioning to a woman. Spriggs-Rhea advised Charging Party to notify the Director and Deputy Director, as well as Project Manager of her gender transition.

After meeting with HR, Charging Party notified Project Manager of her transition. Project Manager immediately responded to Charging Party that she was making a terrible mistake that she would regret, and that she should instead seek gay conversion therapy. Gay conversion therapy has been banned in 26 states because it is a sadistic means of degrading a person due to their sexual identity. As described in her EEOC Charge, Project Manager started making references to Charging Party having a “mental disorder” while continuing to snicker about her having to “chop off her pecker.” Charging Party then met with the Director and Deputy Director about her transition, as instructed by HR, and told them that Project Manager was “problematic” and discussed the hostile culture of the workplace. However, Veolia management made no assurances that Project Manager would be reprimanded or counseled.

Not satisfied with humiliating Charging Party, Project Manager urinated and defecated on the toilet seat in the women’s room so that Charging Party could not use it, her Charge states. Around this time, Project Manager stopped giving Charging Party work assignments and told Charging Party that she may have to relocate to a different office site. Charging Party was soon dropped from the decommissioning project that had just launched that month. Charging Party virtually had no work assignments, despite excellent performance as reflected in reviews in her annual job evaluation for the previous year.

In or around March 2023, Charging Party gave management notice of her imminent name change, and told the Deputy Director during her performance review that she was not getting any new assignments. At one point around this time, Project Manager told Charging Party not to speak to him and that he did not take her “seriously as a person.” Others began to take note of the fact that Charging Party was not being assigned to any projects, and a lead engineering drafter, who met with upper management on a weekly basis, told Charging Party that management had been discussing Charging Party in recent meetings, stating that the only way management could terminate her—given her notice of gender identity and transition—was by cutting Charging Party from work assignments. The lead drafter also mentioned that management was considering changing the office dress code, given that Charging Party was presenting as female by this time.

The constant stress from the bigotry and exclusion at the hands of her direct supervisor took a toll on Charging Party and prompted her to take medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), to address the psychological impact of the discrimination. In May 2023, Charging Party sent an email to Amanda Spriggs-Rhea of HR, requesting FMLA paperwork, and sent another email to Spriggs-Rhea reporting the hostile work environment she was experiencing. Charging Party sent another statement describing the workplace hostility on or around June 16, 2023.

When Charging Party’s FMLA leave was nearing the end, Charging Party expected that HR would address her complaint of a hostile work environment and that she could return to a non-hostile workplace. However, when Charging Party asked Spriggs-Rhea what steps HR was taking to address the reported hostility, Spriggs-Rhea absurdly stated there was nothing she or the company was going to do – no investigation or resolution. Rather, in retaliation for Charging Party’s formal complaint of a hostile work environment, Spriggs-Rhea gave Charging Party an ultimatum, stating that either she could return to work—where there was to be no change in management, no steps taken to counsel, reprimand, or otherwise change in the conduct of the harassing Project Manager—or Charging Party could leave the company.

Unable to tolerate returning to unchanged and unaddressed workplace hostility, Charging Party had no choice but to resign from Veolia Nuclear Solutions. Charging Party submitted her resignation as a result—a constructive termination caused by Veolia’s unlawful conduct.

Charging Party seeks redress, as well as to speak out concerning her experiences at Veolia, to ensure that no other employee endures the civil rights violations she suffered there. Friedman & Houlding LLP is pleased to fight for Charging Party’s and all employees’ rights to work freely without fear of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation for protected activity.

Anyone who has experienced or witnessed discrimination at Veolia is encouraged to contact Friedman & Houlding LLP.

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