Female Correctional Officer Sexually Harassed and Retaliated Against for Participating in Previous EEOC Lawsuit, Federal Agency Charges
PHOENIX - The GEO Group, Inc., operators of the Central Arizona Correctional Facility in Florence, Ariz., violated federal law by sexually harassing a female correctional officer and then retaliating against her for having participated in a prior lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against GEO alleging systemic sexual harassment, EEOC charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, GEO allowed its employees and managers to sexually harass Roberta Jones since June 2007. For example, EEOC alleges that certain male superior officers and coworkers would frequently stand around bragging about their sexual exploits. At least two superior officers are alleged to have put their hands on Jones in an unwanted manner. Another superior officer is alleged to have frequently referred to his penis as "little Jeffie" in her presence. GEO failed to adequately respond to Jones's complaints of sexual harassment, EEOC said.
EEOC also charges that GEO retaliated against Jones for participating in the agency's prior lawsuit against GEO (See EEOC v GEO Group, Inc., cv-10-1995 PHX SRB), which is currently on appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-16292). In that case, EEOC said GEO subjected her to a coercive investigative interview and subjected her to multiple disciplinary actions, which resulted in her being fired.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers from taking adverse action against employees because of their sex and because of their participation in activity protected by Title VII. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona (EEOC v. The GEO Group, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:15-cv-01909-PHX SPL) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress, and punitive damages. EEOC also seeks injunctive relief, including training on Title VII, and other relief to prevent further discriminatory practices.
"Sexual harassment and sexual advances upon women interferes with their ability to perform their jobs and violates federal civil rights laws," said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Title VII's proscription against retaliation is one of its most important protections. Employees must be able to freely interact with EEOC and promote fairness in the workplace and not fear losing their jobs."
EEOC Phoenix District Director Rayford O. Irvin added, "Retaliation is the No. 1 type of charge received by EEOC; approximately 45% of our charges have a retaliation claim. This seems to be a growing problem that our federal agency takes very seriously. Workers absolutely have the right to report harassment at work without negative consequences, and EEOC is here to help."
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.