Goodsell + Oviatt, LLP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS RELEASE – Ruth Esperance v. Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture
Rapid City, SD, September 25, 2023 – A federal jury in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota – Western Division returned a four hundred-thousand-dollar ($400,000) verdict against Thomas J. Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) for sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e.
On December 22, 2018, Ruth Esperance filed a formal Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO:) complaint against the USDA on December 22, 2018. Approximately five weeks later, on January 31, 2019, Ms. Esperance received a letter permanently reassigning her from her supervisory position to a non-supervisory position.
After requesting a hearing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ms. Esperance received the USDA’s final decision, which triggered her fight to file a Complaint in federal court. Plaintiff filed the Complaint in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota on September 2, 2020.
The attorneys for the plaintiff, Ruth Esperance, were pro hac vice counsel Daniel Gebhardt of Solomon Law firm in Washington, D.C., and local counsels G. Verne Goodsell, Nate Oviatt, and Samuel Strommen, of the Goodsell & Oviatt, LLP, a law firm in Rapid City. Samuel Strommen, trial team attorney, commented, “It is very meaningful to have nine jurors confirm the discriminatory conduct taking place within Forest Leadership on the Mystic District for the Black Hills National Forest.”
Senior partner, Verne Goodsell, says, “The verdict confirms that our community will not tolerate illegal sex-based discrimination.”
Partner Nate Oviatt commented, “The people have spoken clearly that in South Dakota the Rule of Law applies to everyone, especially the government.”
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