Crowley County prison operator to pay $1.3 million in settling sex-harassment lawsuit
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A private prison operator will pay $1.3 million to settle complaints from 21 female employees who claimed they suffered harassment from male supervisors and colleagues ranging from sexually explicit comments to rape.
A female officer complained a male co-worker sexually harassed her and that after she complained, she was reassigned to an isolated location of the medium-security Crowley County Correctional Facility where she was raped by the man she complained about, according to the federal lawsuit.
The suit, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, also accused a chief of security at the prison of forcing a female correctional officer to have sex with him so she could keep her job.
Female employees also accused their male counterparts of openly viewing pornography and making demeaning sexual jokes about them.
The EEOC sued Corrections Corporation of America and Dominion Correctional Services on behalf of the female employees in 2006.
Although a settlement was reached, the defendants did not admit liability. Dominion is no longer operating prisons and the company could not be reached for comment.
"CCA settled the claim to avoid the time, expense, and uncertainties of continued litigation and trial," said a statement issued by that company.
CCA assumed control of the prison in January 2003 from Dominion and claims that a "substantial number" of the more serious allegations occurred under Dominion's operation.
"Of the 21 individuals alleging discriminatory conduct, eight were never CCA employees, but were employed solely by Dominion," the statement said. "Moreover, although seven of the 21 individuals were employed by both CCA and Dominion, the majority of their claims also related to events that allegedly occurred before CCA began operating the facility."
EEOC attorney Rita Byrnes Kittle said some of the employees accused of sexual harassment over the years have resigned, but some are still working at the prison.
Guadalupe Gonzales, the 39-year-old former employee accused of rape in 2002, was convicted in 2005 of felony sexual assault. He was sentenced to four years of probation and is registered as a sex offender.
As part of the settlement agreement, Dominion cannot operate a prison in Colorado for three years. CCA must have sexual harassment training conducted by an outside expert for the next three years and have a toll-free number available for employees to call to report sexual harassment.
Some of the women who lost their jobs because of the harassment will get them back and will also get letters of apology.
The settlement comes four months after a federal judge imposed a $1.3 million judgment against a former Colorado correctional officer who sexually abused a female inmate at the state women's complex in Denver.