DeKalb employee fired after complaining of sexual harassment to get $190K

DeKalb County government buildings. FILE PHOTO

DeKalb County government buildings. FILE PHOTO

DeKalb County has reached a settlement agreement with the United States Department of Justice and a former employee who was fired after making a sexual harassment complaint against her supervisor.

The county will pay Cemetra Brooks $190,000 for lost wages and other damages. It also agreed to develop new policies and give supervisors in the county’s facilities management department training on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits retaliation against employees for reporting discriminatory practices.

“Discrimination in the workplace is toxic,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said in a recent press release. “An employee who faces discrimination in her workplace should be able to freely exercise her rights under Title VII without fear of retaliation.”

DeKalb County had not responded to requests for comment as of press time Monday.

According to the press release and court filings, Brooks was hired as an administrative assistant in DeKalb’s facilities management department in Feb. 2018. By June, she had submitted a sexual harassment complaint with the county, accusing her supervisor, Joseph Beckwith, of subjecting her to “unwelcome and objectionable sexual advances.”

The claims “were later investigated and substantiated by the county,” federal officials said.

Beckwith went on leave shortly thereafter and resigned that August.

The department’s director, meanwhile, reportedly contacted human resources to ask for information that would help him fire Brooks while her six-month post-hiring probationary period was still ongoing.

Director Clyde Stovall instead extended Brooks’ probation by three months, reportedly acting on advice from an assistant to the county’s chief operating officer.

In Oct. 2018, Brooks filed a charge of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She was fired the next month, with no explanation given, officials said.

“This settlement agreement underscores that Title VII’s protections apply equally to probationary employees,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a news release. “The Civil Rights Division stands ready to vigorously enforce the law when employees who complain about sexual harassment are subject to retaliation.”