Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has replaced the director of the state’s Department of Agriculture amid allegations of workplace harassment. The governor gave no official reason for the Oct. 10 move, but it came a day after another senior employee in the department resigned after sending a letter to colleagues describing an atmosphere of disrespect, hostility, fear and intimidation. The Department of Agriculture’s workplace environment was also in the news in 2007 when a previous director was forced to resign after being named in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

The latest allegations of harassment came from the agency’s associate director of meat and poultry inspection. She claimed that she had been belittled by the director in staff meetings and that she had been threatened with termination whenever she disagreed with the administration. She added that the threat of being fired was a common tactic in the department. She also said that she had been scolded after pointing out that some of the department’s practices violated privacy rules.

A previous director was placed on paid leave in 2006 while an internal investigation was conducted after allegations of sexual harassment by a former employee were made. The director was then reinstated without explanation, but he was later forced out by then Governor Matt Blunt. The state eventually paid $82,500 to settle the suit.

Harassment and intimidation in the workplace can create a toxic environment that harms productivity and greatly impacts the lives of employees. Federal and state laws are in place to protect workers against discrimination and unfair treatment. An attorney experienced in this area could help employees dealing with these issues pursue the legal remedies available to them. They could file a discrimination or harassment lawsuit to seek compensation for their emotional distress, lost wages and reduced employment opportunities.

Source: KMOV, “Hagler replaced as director Mo. agriculture agency”, David A Lieb , October 11, 2013