A lesbian prison guard has been awarded $850,000 after an administrative judge found that she had endured a “relentless, daily regimen of mental and physical threats” by a co-worker at the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden.
The judge ruled the state Department of Correctional Services “willfully permitted a work environment to flourish where the credible evidence showed” the guard “could have been killed because she is a gay female.” The judge called her situation “a disturbing nightmare.”
The officer worked for nearly 20 years without incident until 2002, when a fellow officer began orally abusing her. Shortly after, obscene messages began appearing on materials in common work areas, including drawings of penises labeled with inmates’ names. Officers repeatedly harassed her in front of inmates, jeopardizing her authority and safety, the lawsuit stated.
When the officer complained in writing, the department offered her counseling, a response that led state Division of Human Rights Commissioner Kumiki Gibson to call the department “a partner in crime.”
Final note: Smart HR professionals use cases such as this one to illustrate why a harassment-free work environment is crucial. Tell employees your organization won’t tolerate harassment. Discipline those who don’t take the warning seriously.