Sex or gender discrimination and sexual harassment are not novel concepts for women in the workplace. However, women employed in corrections facilities face discrimination, harassment, and retaliation at alarming rates. This, in addition to the daily issues of sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of male inmates, creates an intolerable situation. If you find yourself in this environment, let our Birmingham employment lawyer advise you of your rights as an employee.
Working in an Already Hostile Environment
Female corrections officers and employees who work with a male prison population are routinely subjected to less than desirable conditions. It is true that most female corrections officers expect to be the targets of unwanted attention, so they wear over-sized and unflattering uniforms and wear their hair in tight buns to minimize their feminine appearance. Yet, most of them still endure threats of rape and constant indecent exposure by inmates. To make matters worse, when they complain, they report that supervisors ignore the complaints and tell them to “let it go.” In more egregious cases, they are retaliated against. According to one case, after complaining of sexual harassment at the hands of inmates a female prison employee was required by her supervisor to submit to a medical exam where she was made to expose her breasts in front of colleagues.
Suffering Sexual Harassment and Discrimination in the Prison Workplace
In addition to the difficult situation that female employees endure working in prisons with male inmate populations, those same employees are subjected to sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation at the hands of their co-workers and supervisors. A recent article in the New York Times describes the numerous legal claims being brought across the country by female prison employees that describe a dangerous and hostile work environment and the retaliation that results from the employee complaints.
Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon. Back in 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that these types of claims were inordinately common throughout the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and, more importantly, they were consistently ignored or mishandled. There are more than 10,000 female employees within the federal prison system and those that complain about the harassment, discrimination, and retaliation are typically terminated and blackballed from corrections jobs. This remains true even if their legal claims are successful.
$20 Million Settlement in Florida Prison Discrimination Case
Last year, the Federal Bureau of Prisons entered into a $20 million settlement in response to a class action lawsuit filed by more than 500 current and former employees of a federal prison in central Florida. This was reportedly the largest settlement in a class-action sexual harassment case in US history. According to the allegations, female employees who complained about sexual harassment and rape threats from inmates were mocked by their supervisors. Written disciplinary citations against inmates by female corrections employees were routinely shredded. Incredibly, one female employee claims she was locked in a hallway alone while inmates pressed their faces to the glass of their cells, pleasuring themselves. This was done intentionally by male prison officials to encourage inmates to behave, or it was a “reward” for good behavior.
Like employees of private companies, federal employees are also protected from discrimination based on their race, religion, color, gender, gender identity, pregnancy, sexual orientation, national origin, age (if over 40), disability or genetic information. If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King , LLC. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 2651880. We are here to serve you!