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Ministry reaches agreement to settle SPLC sex discrimination complaint

A North Carolina ministry has agreed to ensure its federally funded job training and residential program for homeless veterans doesn’t discriminate against women – resolving a sex discrimination complaint the SPLC filed on behalf of female veterans who were not given access to the same job training classes as men.

The agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Labor requires the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry to revise its programs and policies to ensure equal access. Program staff will also receive anti-discrimination training. The SPLC and Asheville-based attorney Meghann K. Burke filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center in 2012.

“We are pleased that the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry will be taking steps to ensure that female veterans are given the same opportunities and treatment as the men,” said Sara Zampierin, acting deputy legal director for the SPLC’s Economic Justice Project. “Women veterans seeking help to get back on their feet should not be steered away from vocational training and into domestic skills classes because of their gender.”

Under the agreement, the ministry must submit proposed policy changes and a training plan to the Civil Rights Center for approval. The agreement also requires the ministry to conduct outreach to women, women’s advocacy groups and female veterans to ensure that these groups are aware of the job training programs available.

The complaint, filed on behalf of U.S. Army veteran Emily Bagby and other female veterans, describes how they were excluded from job training and educational programs such as truck driving, training for “green” jobs and culinary arts, which were provided to male veterans. Instead, women were offered classes such as knitting, art therapy, yoga, meditation, how to de-clutter your room, self-esteem and Bible study.

“Job training programs are critical for veterans struggling to make the transition back to civilian life,” Bagby said. “I’m hopeful that women veterans can now have equal access to these programs.”

The ministry is composed of approximately 300 churches in Asheville and Buncombe County. It has 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. It 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.