Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
Given the dynamics of the working environment and the potential of intimidation today, the United States Department of Justice estimates that 80% of all rape cases occur at the workplace. The case brought against the Denver County jail is an example of sexual harassment at the workplace.
Analysis of a Lawsuit against Denver Jail by Its Female Deputies
This case was filed on the 9th of September 2019 in Colorado by 15 female deputies from Denver jail. The complaint consisted of three key issues: unsafe working conditions, sexual harassment, and a hostile work environment.
The female deputies were required to supervise male housing pods frequently, and some even had standing orders to do the supervision alone. The male prisoners took advantage of the jail’s cross-gender supervision policy to subject female deputies to sexual harassment by simulating sex acts. These acts included masturbation while undressing and exposing themselves in the presence of the deputies. Moreover, the prisoners used sexually harassing language while talking to each other within earshot of the deputies. Others went as far as calling the deputies insulting names like “cunt,” “whore,” or “bitch” (Clarke, 2020). The deputies filed a civil rights complaint (Title VII), with the help of two attorneys, Brian T. Moore and Wilbur C. Smith, when these actions persisted despite their efforts to report as per the facility’s stipulated protocols.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
This act is a federal law that protects individuals from discrimination based on sex. It applies to private employers, state and local governments, as well as educational institutions that employ 15 or more persons. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency, is responsible for investigating charges brought up at the workplace relating to sexual harassment. In this case, The EEOC classifies the above lawsuit under the hostile work environment claim due to the following reasons. The actions by the prisoners intimidated, offended, and interfered with the performance of the deputies. These offenses, both verbal and physical, were conducted by the prisoners on several accounts, as can be supported by the number of log entries made. The offenses were not only directed at an individual but more than ten deputies. In addition, the jail’s senior staff can be said to have joined in perpetrating the harassment by acting indifferently to the accusations and only imposing token penalties to the offenders in situations where disciplinary actions were initiated.
The complaint procedure followed by the female deputies at the correctional facility shows weaknesses of the system, for instance, making log entries of the daily harassments and reporting them to the senior jail staff who, in turn, suppressed them by acting indifferently to their accusations. There was also a lack of effective disciplinary by the disciplinary officials as they did not initiate any disciplinary action against the offenders. Instead, the officials imposed only tokens penalties on the offenders. The facility also had a discriminatory routine of supervising the inmates by allowing male deputies to supervise female housing pods, and the reverse also happened in the male housing pods.
The correctional facility would have placed measures to prevent harassment through the following ways; imposing heavy penalties on the offenders so as to serve as examples to the other inmates upon accusations, letting the female deputies only supervise female inmates, who constitute about 22 % of the prisoners, and the male deputies supervise at the male housing pods. Adopting a two-partner supervision policy whereby a female deputy should supervise with the help of a male deputy partner. From this lawsuit, Denver jail suffered a fine of $1.55 million that constituted $609,228.78 attorney fees and $62,715.42 paid to each of the plaintiffs (Clarke, 2020). The facility also had to incur costs in providing a vendor who was to train each deputy on sexual harassment and the penalties thereof. It lost its credibility as a correctional facility in Colorado State. Santo (2017) gives several other instances of female sexual harassment at correctional facilities despite all efforts to eradicate workplace sexual harassment. These cases postulate the existence of resistance to gender equality.
Clarke, M. (2020). Denver settles female deputies’ sexual harassment lawsuit for $1.55 million. Prison Legal News. Pp 56. Retrieved from https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2020/jan/9/denver-settles-female-deputies-sexual-harassment-lawsuit-155-million
Santo, A. (2017). The Unique Sexual Harassment Problem. The Marshall Project. Retrieved from https://www.themarshalproject.org/2017/11/09/the-unique-sexual-harassment-problem-female-prison-workers-face
Sexual Harassment-Legal Standards. Workplacefairness.org. Retrieved from https://www.workplacefairness.org/sexual-harassment-legal-rights