In a scene reminiscent of Sandra Fluke, the conservative Family Research Council decided that it would not tolerate any talk of sexual harassment, especially over the talk of birth control pills. No, they didn’t start another campaign against the ‘immoral’ use associated with this medication, but instead a senior employee, William Saunders, thought it was okay to talk cute to someone he supervised. In reality, his behavior went beyond “cute.”
The woman behind the suit is filing for illegal retaliation under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The suit alleges that Saunders would send her e-mails saying “hi cutie,” and would pressure her to go with him to social events. Perhaps he thought he was flattering her when he called her a “young attractive woman,” but his comment about women who used birth control put his behavior over the line — he labeled this behavior as “whoring around.”
As any good employee would do, Moira Gaul filed a complaint with the organization’s human resources department. She rightly felt her supervisor’s behavior created a hostile work environment. She had started with the organization in 2005 as a coordinator, and did well enough to be promoted to the position of director in just a few short years. Her work as director focused on abstinence education, HPV vaccination, and abortion. Her boss’ main agenda was anti-abortion. It seemed like the perfect storm.
In a few short months after filing the lawsuit for retaliation, Ms. Gaul was fired. The organization stated that the reason they let her go was because of funding and poor performance, in the form of being late with a time card. Saunders stated in his response to the HR complaint that Gaul simply didn’t want to work for him. The truth is, the funding for that programming continued. Her position was eliminated, but reworked into a nearly identical one.
Since then, the original sexual harassment case has settled, but the illegal retaliation case remains. As is the case with women who speak out against the harassment they endure from employers, she’s trying to keep a low profile so it doesn’t affect her ability to gain employment in the future.
It seems that the Family Research Council is fair, after all. It’s an equal opportunity offender, even when it comes to its own employees.