FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Jury Verdict Won in Gender Discrimination Case

Historic Jury Verdict Compels Department of Agriculture to Redress Gender Discrimination

Washington, D.C. - In a landmark decision on September 23, 2023, a jury convened in Rapid City, South Dakota delivered a resounding victory for justice. Ruth Esperance, a dedicated public servant with a remarkable 34-year tenure at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, was awarded $400,000, signifying a significant milestone in the battle against gender discrimination within the Forest Service.

With unrelenting commitment, Ms. Esperance pursued her aspiration of becoming a forest ranger, a dream realized after earning a forestry degree and securing a position with the Forest Service even before her graduation. Over the years, she ascended to the esteemed position of District Ranger, overseeing the Mystic Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota, a role she held dear. Unfortunately, this dream was shattered when her manager, Mark Van Every, removed her from her beloved position.

Initially, the reassignment was cloaked in vague terms, described by Van Every as a "personnel matter." However, the jury emphatically rejected this characterization. Shortly after reassigning Ms. Esperance, Mark Van Every retired from federal service.

Following an exhaustive five-day trial presided over by U.S. District Judge Lawrence L. Piersol, the jury sent a compelling message to the Government. "Discrimination against women will not be tolerated in South Dakota, and all individuals must be treated equally under the law," asserted Esperance's attorney, Daniel K. Gebhardt.

Ms. Esperance is optimistic that the verdict will serve as a catalyst for change. "The Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service now bear the responsibility of taking greater steps to address this part of their culture,” said Esperance, who hopes “that those women suffering in silence at the Forest Service can now be heard and those responsible held accountable.”

During the trial, former human resource officials within the Forest Service openly questioned the reassignment, with one official describing Van Every’s request to reassign Ms. Esperance as unprecedented. Another official acknowledged a troubling pattern of discrimination against women within Region 2 of the Forest Service, encompassing areas in Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas.

Legal representation for the United States Government was provided by United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota, Alison J. Ramsdell, and Assistant United States Attorney Michaele S. Hofmann.