Based on claims that the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry (ABCCM) failed to provide female veterans with the same job training classes as their male counterparts, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a sex-discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor against ABCCM. The complaint was filed today on behalf of U.S. Army veteran Emily Bagby.
In the complaint, the Southern Poverty Law Center makes four requests:
1. Accept jurisdiction and fully investigate these claims
2. Compel ABCCM to overhaul its current policies and practices that prohibit female veterans from participating in the job training and educational programs provided to male veterans
3. Monitor and track the provision of job training and educational programs through the Veterans Restoration Quarters at ABCCM to ensure that there is an equal opportunity for female veterans to participate in these programs; and
4. Grant any and all relief to complainant and similarly situated persons as appropriate to remedy the discrimination described herin and as determined by any investigation into these claims.
Attempts to reach ABCCM’s director Rev. Scott Rogers for comment were unsuccessful at the time of this writing. Earlier this year, ABCCM’s veteran services for men and women was recognized as one of the four best practices in the country in a May publication by the U.S. Department of Labor. The nonprofit’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) program was highly praised in the publication. When Rogers traveled to Washington, D.C. earlier this year to speak about ABCCM, he told Xpress that the program placed 302 veterans in the workforce at a cost of about $1,000 per veteran—a number that is $1,600 less than the national average per placement.
The full press release regarding the sexual discrimination claim can be read below in full. It can also be found online at the Southern Poverty Law Center website.
The full press release from the Southern Poverty Law Center:
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a sex discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor today against the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry (ABCCM) for failing to provide female veterans with the same job training classes male veterans receive through the organization’s federally funded programs.
The complaint, filed on behalf of U.S. Army veteran Emily Bagby and other female veterans, describes how female veterans are excluded from job training and educational programs provided to male veterans such as truck driving, training for “green” jobs and culinary arts. Instead, female veterans are offered classes such as knitting, art therapy, yoga, meditation, how to de-clutter your room, self-esteem and Bible study.
“Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry’s discriminatory policy is insulting and demeaning to all female veterans,” said Christine P. Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “These women served their country, just like male veterans, and are entitled to the same dignity and respect. The classes offered to the female veterans seem like they are designed to help them become better housewives, not become independent like the job training offered to the men.”
By failing to provide the same services to these veterans, the organization is discriminating on the basis of sex, violating the nondiscrimination and equal opportunity provisions of the Workforce Investment Act administered by the Department of Labor. The SPLC’s complaint asks the department to end this discrimination by compelling the organization to overhaul its policies. It also urges the department to monitor the ministry’s programs to ensure it no longer discriminates against female veterans.
During a March 14 hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the ABCCM’s executive director, the Rev. Scott Rogers, said that his organization helped place more than 300 veterans into the workforce last year.
At the same hearing, he noted that male veterans are provided 24 different job training programs at their Veterans Restoration Quarters while female veterans are offered 16 different “personal skill-building” programs at the Steadfast House, the organization’s housing facility for female veterans.
Bagby lived at the Steadfast House from July 2011 to February 2012 after she found herself homeless during a period of unemployment. She hoped that ABCCM would help prepare her to re-enter the civilian workforce, but she and the other female veterans were not provided the opportunity to participate in the job-training programs offered to men at the restoration quarters. She also did not receive any meaningful assistance with obtaining social services, applying to school or obtaining employment or permanent housing. Bagby left Steadfast without the skills needed for future employment and self-sufficiency.
“I am asking that female veterans have the same opportunities to better themselves as the men,” she said. “Women had to fight for equality in the military. We shouldn’t have to fight for it as civilians.”
By denying women access to the job training and educational programming opportunities, ABCCM is exacerbating existing barriers for female veterans. Female veterans are already four times more likely than their civilian counterparts to experience homelessness. According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, this is occurring because female veterans are unable to achieve access into the labor market. Female veterans often experience a lack of job training and skills assessments, and difficulty transferring the skills obtained while in the military to the civilian economy.
ABCCM is composed of approximately 300 churches in Asheville and Buncombe County, N.C. It provides services to veterans, the homeless and families in poverty. The organization received funding from the Department of Labor’s Veterans Workforce Investment Program and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program for its job-training programs and services for veterans. ABCCM recently received $200,000 from the Department of Labor to help re-integrate homeless veterans into the civilian workforce through job training and other services in 2012.
ABCCM also receives federal aid through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Grant and Per Diem Program. This money provides supportive housing and services to homeless veterans. With four such programs, which encompass 158 beds for homeless men and women, Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry is the third-largest contractor of Grant and Per Diem Program services in the country.
Other attorneys on the case include Eden Heilman, senior staff attorney at the SPLC’s Louisiana office, and Meghann K. Burke of the law firm of Cogburn & Brazil, P.A., in Asheville, N.C.
A copy of the complaint can be viewed at http://www.splcenter.org.