All parties in a federal lawsuit filed against the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office have reached a settlement. Fourteen female officers claimed they were subjected to sexual harassment for years in the Mobile County Metro Jail, and the sheriff’s office did nothing to stop it.
A settlement that includes $2.02 million in monetary relief and several policy changes has been reached between the Department of Justice, the sheriff’s office and the claimants. Each corrections officer would receive $43,571.43, which includes $35,000 in compensatory damages. The rest would go towards attorneys fees.
The incidents began in 2011, according to the plaintiffs. Jail employees claimed inmates made verbal sexual threats and degrading comments, made physical threats, exposed themselves and even masturbated in front of them multiple times a day. After reporting the incident over several years, the suit states the sheriff’s office did not take the complaints seriously and did nothing to stop further damage.
“Employers must take appropriate action to protect their employees from sexual harassment in the workplace,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Just like any other workplace, jails must take steps necessary to ensure that female employees are not subject to a sexually hostile work environment in any form.”
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Policy changes will include a revision of jail policies in inmate sexual misconduct, a revision of the inmate handbook, training and communications to employees, a zero tolerance campaign throughout the jail that includes sexual misconduct information, a dedicated area away from the general population for those who sexually assault employees and additional Disciplinary Hearing Officer training.
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