Mid-Missouri Women's Shelter Pays Settlement for Sexual Harassment, Retaliation


Leigh Voltmer - IMAGE VIA
A shelter for female victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse settled a lawsuit yesterday that accused its former director of sexually harassing staff members and then allowing board members to retaliate against the employees who complained of the director's actions.

Leigh Voltmer, former director of Comprehensive Human Services (now called True North) resigned without explanation from the Columbia, Missouri, shelter in August 2009. A year earlier -- in August 2008 -- two employees of the shelter complained to board members that Voltmer had sexually harassed staff members. One of those whistle-blowers, Nancy Gause, was fired soon after making the complaint. Another employee, Tracie Lawson, was pressured to resign before being demoted and given a lower salary.

Last September, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against Comprehensive Human Services. Yesterday the agency reached a settlement with the shelter.

True North will pay Glause $40,000 in back pay and $45,000 in compensatory damages. Lawson will receive a $5,500 for back pay and $12,500 for compensatory damages.

"Nancy Gause and Tracie Lawson came forward at great personal risk to report complaints they had received from the shelter's staff," says EEOC attorney Barbara Seely. "Comprehensive Human Service is an organization that purports to shield women from abuse. These women should have been supported in reporting sexual harassment, not punished for doing the right thing."

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