Gender discrimination and sexual harassment attorneys in California know women who work in federal prisons housing male inmates tend to go into the job expecting they will be targeted for unwanted attention from the resident populace. This isn’t to say such behavior is tolerable, but it’s the reason these workers wear over-sized uniforms, slick their hair into tight buns, do almost everything possible to hide any trace of femininity. But worse than abuse they face from the inmates, they told The New York Times and detailed in gender discrimination lawsuit depositions, is the fact their male colleagues encourage this behavior – and even participate in it. On more than one occasion, this has resulted not only in a hostile workplace, but an extremely dangerous one. Further, they allege that when these incidents are reported, they face retaliation, including blackballing and termination, the male colleagues who harass them reportedly rise in their field.
Our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys are aware of cases wherein female prison workers have been groped, taunted daily, subjected to incessant inmate masturbation and threatened with rape. Anytime they reported this, the women say, their supervisors downplayed it, encouraged them to “let it go.” Once when a female worker refused, she said her supervisors required her to undergo an unwanted medical exam that required her to expose her breasts in front of a colleague. In another case, a case manager was reportedly raped by an inmate. When the 24-year employee reported it, she was criminally charged with raping her attacker. She was later acquitted by a jury, but her retirement savings was depleted for her defense fund and her daughter had to drop out of college because she couldn’t afford it.
This isn’t the first time abuses of female prison employees have come to light. In 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a stunning report, indicating sexual harassment and retaliation claims were not only unusually high within the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, but also that they were routinely mishandled. And this is not a small problem, given that more than 10,000 women work within the federal prison system. Women who have lodged complaints say they have been essentially blocked from any future in the corrections system – even when their claims prevail. This is evidenced by the fact that a Congressional oversight committee last year learned that prisons were continuing to grant high-level administrators huge bonuses, even though the complaints regarding sexual harassment were pervasive, the handling of them clearly unlawful. Continue reading