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January 29, 2020

Katherine Carline, ACLU-VA's client in this lawsuit.

UPDATEGarden Creations and Katherine Carline, represented by the ACLU of Virginia and Paul Falabella of Butler Royals, PLC, have entered into a mutually agreeable settlement of a discrimination complaint under the Virginia Human Rights Act filed earlier this year with the Virginia Division of Human Rights. All matters between the parties involved have been resolved in confidential terms. Garden Creations is an equal employment opportunity employer and does not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace. The company regrets the circumstances that led to Ms. Carline’s departure and wishes her the best of luck in her career.

The ACLU of Virginia has filed a complaint under the Virginia Human Rights Act (HRA) with the Virginia Attorney General’s Division of Human Rights to ask the agency to investigate the discriminatory treatment and firing of our client, Katherine Carline.

The complaint alleges Ms. Carline was fired from her job as a horticulturist for Garden Creations over text message shortly after reporting sexual harassment from a male co-worker. She also alleges she was not provided adequate access to use the restroom while working, which courts have held has a disparate impact on female employees. The complaint contends that her employer decided to fire her rather than ensure a woman could work in this male-dominated field free from harassment and with her basic physical needs met.

“The discrimination and retaliation Ms. Carline experienced at work demonstrates the need for a strong civil rights statute to protect people who face this kind of unfair treatment,” said Nicole Tortoriello, ACLU-VA’s The Secular Society Women’s Advocacy Counsel. “No one should face the harassment Ms. Carline endured, and no one should have to wait until they are fired to be able to get help.”

The ACLU-VA filed its complaint with pro bono co-counsel Paul Falabella of Butler Royals, PLC. The HRA, under which the complaint was filed, is a rarely used law because of its rigid requirements: Employees must work for an employer with more than five and less than 15 employees. Employees also cannot sue their employer unless they are fired because of a protected status, like their race or sex. The ACLU-VA has a similar discrimination lawsuit under the HRA filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Shiyanbade, et al. v. Executive Health Group, PC, et al.) on behalf of two Black women who claim they were fired because of their race. (Update: This case was dismissed on June 19, 2020.)