The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, Alabama’s second-largest sheriff’s office, and the Mobile County Sheriff, in his official capacity (collectively, MCSO).
The lawsuit alleges that MCSO discriminated against current and former female corrections officers and other similarly situated female employees on the basis of sex, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by subjecting them to a sexually hostile work environment. Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.
The Department’s complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, alleges that female corrections officers at MCSO were regularly subjected to severe and pervasive sexual harassment in the workplace by male inmates who frequently expose their genitals, masturbate, and direct sexual slurs, sexual propositions, threats of sexual violence and sexually degrading comments towards female employees. The complaint alleges that despite the employees’ numerous reports to MCSO supervisors objecting to the harassment, MCSO did not take the complaints seriously and failed to take prompt and effective action to remedy this harassing conduct.
“Nobody deserves to be sexually harassed while on the job,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan of the Civil Rights Division. “The behavior to which these female employees were subjected is appalling, and the County’s failure to take action to protect its employees from such conduct is inexcusable.”
Twelve female correctional officers employed by the MCSO filed charges of sex discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC investigated the charges and found that there was a reasonable basis to believe that violations of Title VII had occurred. After unsuccessful conciliation efforts by the EEOC, the charges were referred by the EEOC to the Justice Department.
Through this lawsuit, the United States seeks monetary relief for the affected female employees and injunctive relief to require MCSO to develop and implement policies that would prevent and remedy sex-based harassment in the future.
Today’s lawsuit is part of the Civil Rights Division’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative announced in February 2018. The Initiative is aimed at eradicating sexual harassment in state and local government workplaces. It focuses on litigation, outreach, and development of effective remedial measures to address and prevent future sex discrimination and harassment.
The United States is represented in the case by Senior Trial Attorneys Taryn Wilgus Null, Alicia Johnson, and Juliet Gray of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section.
Additional information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Civil Rights Division’s website at https://www.justice.gov/crt.