ASHEVILLE, NC (ACT) - The U.S. Department of Labor has opened an investigation into allegations of sexual discrimination by the organization that runs Steadfast House, a shelter for female veterans.
The Southern Poverty Law Center brought the complaint on behalf of army veteran Emily Bagby and other former and current residents of Steadfast House who claim they do not receive the same job training and education programs male veterans have access to at Veterans Restoration Quarters.
READ: Veteran Alleges Sex Discrimination At ABCCM
"This complaint shows that the Department of Labor takes this complaint very seriously, and we are very pleased the department recognized the importance of assuring female veterans receive the same opportunities as male veterans," said Christine Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC.
Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, a coalition of local churches, operates Steadfast House and the VRQ. The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center filed the labor complaint July 25.
In a letter addressed to Sun, Naomi Barry-Perez, director of the Labor Department's Civil Rights Center, said the CRC will investigate whether ABCCM discriminated against the complainants based on their sex "by denying them the opportunity to participate in the same job training and education programs as male participants."
"Because ABCCM was a recipient of DOL financial assistance during the time of the alleged discrimination and continues to be a recipient at this time, all of ABCCM's education programs are subject to the nondiscrimination provisions of Title IX and its implementing regulations," she wrote.
In a July interview, Bagby said, "As far as job training, there was none." She said women were offered classes in crocheting, knitting and home economics while men had access to culinary training, truck driving training and other classes.
Bagby stayed at the facility from July 2011 to February 2012 after becoming unemployed and homeless.
Steadfast House, located in North Asheville, can house up to 18 female veterans. Veterans Restoration Quarters in Oteen can house up to 235 veterans a night in a converted motel.
The Citizen-Times could not reach ABCCM Executive Director Scott Rogers for this article, but he previously issued a statement in which he denied the complainants' allegations.
"The women veterans are offered access to all the education and training services that male veterans are offered, which are all through A-B Tech (Community College) and a local truck driving school," Rogers said. "Each veteran is also respected in coming up with their own individual education and employment plan."
Sun said she is "not a mind reader" and cannot understand why Rogers would make such a statement after several women documented their complaints with the SPLC. Women consistently said they did not have equal access to training.
"That is just not the experience of many female veterans we've spoken to who live at Steadfast House," Sun said. "They've consistently represented to us that they are not offered training programs the men are offered."