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Prison Pays $1.3 Million in Female Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Claims Settlement

October 23, 2009

Our Anaheim-based Labor and Employment Attorneys have been following the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) announcement last week that the operators of a privately-owned prison in Olney Springs, Colorado, have agreed to settle in a $1.3 million practice discrimination lawsuit--for the harassment, discrimination and retaliation against female employees.

The lawsuit, filed by the EEOC in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, alleged that male managers at the Crowley County Correction Facility subjected 21 female workers to a hostile, sex-based working environment, where the women experienced sexual harassment, inappropriate touching, were forced to perform sexual acts, and to endure rape--in order to maintain their employment in the all-male security prison.

In once case, according to the suit, a female officer who filed a complaint about being sexually harassed by a male colleague, was forced in an isolated location, where she was raped by the man she complained about. Another female officer claimed that the former chief of the prison's security forced her to have intercourse with him to keep her job.

Women who complained about the harassment were allegedly retaliated against--by being ostracized, accused of misconduct, and assigned the most dangerous work duties in the prison. The female employees also alleged that the male workers viewed and openly flaunted pornography in the workplace, made lewd and inappropriate sexual comments about the female workers, and consistently told sexually implicit jokes.

Many of the women worked as correctional officers, including two sergeants and one lieutenant, as well as inmate educators and kitchen workers.

The EEOC reported that two male security chiefs were allowed to resign after the receiving many complaints of sexual harassment and rape against them. After the resignation of one of the Security Chiefs, his replacement was also accused of making harassing sexual comments and engaging in inappropriate touching.

EEOC acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru stated that the allegations in this sexual harassment case were "shocking and despicable," and that no female worker should ever have to experience harassment or demands for sexual favors in the workplace--or be made to endure retaliation after filing a complaint against illegal sexual harassment.

The CCA denied any wrongdoing, and did not admit liability as part of the settlement. CCA purchased the prison in 2003 from Dominion, and claimed that many of the most serious claims happened prior to 2003.

This settlement ends the EEOC lawsuit, filed in 2006 against the Dominion Correctional Services LLC and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), both of whom did business as Crowley County Correctional Facility. As part of the settlement, Dominion cannot operate a prison in Colorado for three years. CCA agreed to have three years of sexual harassment and anti-discrimination training at the facility, lead by an independent expert. There will also be a toll-free number available for employees to call to report sexual harassment.

Mary Jo O'Neill, EEOC Regional Attorney of the Phoenix District said that this conduct is "reprehensible," and in a career where dealing with prison inmates is already dangerous, it is unconscionable that the men with whom these women reported to and worked with could add such a deep layer of fear and retaliation to their working environment.

CCA is the nation's largest owner and operator of government-contracted prisons, with 65 facilities nationwide.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation in the workplace, our team of experienced California Labor and Employment Attorneys can aggressively represent you and protect your employment rights. Contact Howard Law, PC today.

Private Prison Pays $1.3 Million to Settle Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Claims for Class of Women, EEOC Press Release, October 13, 2009

Private Prison Reaches $1.3 M Settlement with EEOC, Associated Press, October 14, 2009

EEOC: Women Subjected to Rape, Performing Sex to Keep Prison Jobs, The Denver Channel, October 13, 2009

Crowley County Prison Operator to Pay $1.3 Million in Settling Sex-Harassment Lawsuit, The Denver Post, October 14, 2009

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC)