A U.S. Department of Agriculture employee claims that she entered into a sexual relationship with a supervisor in order to get a promotion. The revelation left the audience at a USDA Black History Month event “shellshocked,” according to someone in attendance at the agency’s Washington, D.C., main office.
Rosetta Davis, 53, is the USDA staffer who is leveling the allegation against her supervisor, the Washington Post reported.
“The event at the Agriculture Department’s headquarters started like many others honoring Black History Month, but no one imagined how it would end…At one point during the program, which employees said was televised to department facilities across the country, Davis unexpectedly took the stage and alleged to her colleagues in emotional and specific terms how she was sexually harassed on the job. She described how a supervisor, whom she named, offered to give her a promotion to grade GS-13 in exchange for sex…Several women went to comfort Davis, but the audience could still hear her shouting as she was led backstage. After that, the program ended.”
Soon after the event, the USDA placed Davis on paid administrative leave and banned her from agency facilities pending further review of the incident on February 15. The agency denies that the leave is disciplinary in nature and is more of a precaution. The UDSA told Fox News that while it takes harassment complaints very seriously, it can’t comment on personnel matters that are subject to a pending lawsuit.
As alluded to above, Davis is already suing the USDA in a 17-page complaint that was filed in April 2017, naming the-then acting USDA secretary as the defendant, for a hostile work environment and workplace retaliation, which came in the form, among other things, of involuntary transfers, position reclassifications, and ridicule and intimidation, in violation of Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act.
She previously filed several internal equal employment opportunity complaints against USDA officials. “USDA management has retaliated, and continues to retaliate, against Ms. Davis because of her prior EEO activity,” the lawsuit alleges. Against this backdrop, Davis contends that she has a history of glowing performance appraisals at the USDA.
Fox News added the following about the unexpected development at the USDA Black History Month event, hinting at the ongoing #MeToo movement.
“While the case has been in the courts for months, her surprise announcement at the agency event brought it out into the open, amid a climate where women across government and the private sector are speaking out on sexual harassment.”
Davis told the Post that she agreed to the sexual relationship to advance her career, an arrangement which also seems to be acknowledged in the legal papers. According to her lawsuit, she ended the relationship after eight months because the supervisor requested a specific sex act. She also never got the promotion to the higher pay grade. Almost immediately after Davis broke off the relationship, the supervisor began sexually harassing her, the lawsuit filed in D.C. federal court alleges.
Rosetta Davis went to work for the USDA in 2001, which suggests that the issues outlined in the lawsuit occurred during the Obama administration. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Trump nominee, was sworn in on April 25, 2017, as the U.S. secretary of agriculture, and the agency claims that it is processing EEO complaints much faster now that Perdue is in charge.