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Sex discrimination settlement requires new policies and training

A federal law suit against the Department of Corrections in Arizona was settled recently, with promises to develop policies and procedures that will protect female employees. The new requirements are a part of a consent decree that the DOC entered in to with the Department of Justice. The discrimination suit arose when a worker at a state prison filed a complaint alleging that she endured sexual harassment at work for more than three years.

Sexual harassment can take many forms. In this case, the woman testified that male coworkers and supervisors grabbed and touched her, engaged in unwelcome hugging and kissing, showed her pornography at work, and made sexually explicit comments.

An employer allowing a group of employees to bully or harass another person is a common form of sexual harassment, as are many of the other allegations made in this suit. Sexual harassment can also be an employer exchanging a sexual relationship with an employee in exchange for career advancement, promotions, or salary increases.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission filed a complaint stating that the woman had brought the issue to department managers, but that no investigation took place and no one was disciplined. The EEOC filing says that although the harassment started in 2004, the prison did nothing to stop it until 2008.

The settlement awards the woman $182,500 along with the requirements for the new policies. The DOC in Arizona will also implement new training procedures that will hopefully prevent sexual harassment.

This case is a good example of the value of filing a claim if you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment. The new policies and training will likely benefit many other employees within the prison system who were not able to bring their own suit. Since the suit was brought in the federal court system, this could also have positive implications for prison systems in other states.

The Arizona Republic, "Arizona Department of Corrections settles U.S sex bias suit," Bob Ortega, Feb. 26, 2012.

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