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Florida federal prison faces class action sexual harassment suit

A federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility in Florida is under fire for alleged inappropriate conduct toward female staff by the inmates. The women say that they were regularly subjected to sexual harassment from the inmates and supervisors did nothing to stop it. Recently, an administrative judge granted the women the right to file a class action suit against the BOP.

Female staff members say they were continuously subjected to foul language, inappropriate sexual advances, masturbatory behavior by inmates, and some inmates would threaten to rape female staff members. When they filed complaints, superiors would often literally throw the complaints away. Back in 2011, the women went outside the prison system and filed an initial complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Reports indicate that the right to file a class action suit, which has now been endorsed by the U.S. Justice Department, will give credence to the complaints filed with the EEOC. About 64 women filed affidavits regarding the conduct of the inmates and the lack of support and/or protection from superiors. One of the women indicated that she had worked at another federal prison complex in Florida and had never been subjected to the type of behavior she was routinely subjected to at the Federal Correctional Complex Coleman, which is the facility that is the subject of the complaints.

If the complaints are not satisfactorily handled through the EEOC sexual harassment complaints, the women, who could number up to 360, may exercise the right to file a class action suit. Some people may believe that women should expect this type of behavior if they are working inside a prison housed with men. It may be true that some inappropriate behavior is to be expected, but the women's employer, the BOP should make it a priority to protect their female employees. The BOP, like any other employer, is responsible for providing a safe environment for all of its employees.

Source: mcclatchydc.com, "Women workers at Florida prison win class-action status in sexual harassment case," Michael Doyle, May 29, 2013

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