Operator of two Arizona correction facilities to pay $550,000 for 16 women who were dismissed from this case in 2012
GEO Group, Inc. has signed a consent decree and will pay $550,000 and other relief to settle lawsuits for sexual harassment and retaliation filed by the EEOC and the Arizona Civil Rights Division (ACRD) of the Attorney General’s Office. GEO must send letters of regret to the women and provide employment references to them. Additionally, the company must review its EEO policies and ensure that all complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation are immediately and thoroughly investigated by a neutral employee, and ensure that the complainants are informed of the results of the investigation. GEO is required to post notices of the consent decree in both facilities, conduct anti-discrimination training and include EEO compliance when evaluating its managers. Lastly, certain alleged harassers will be designated as ineligible for rehire.
The allegations, occurring between 2006 and 2012, included sexual assault, a male manager grabbing and pinching the breasts and crotch of a female correctional officer, and a male employee forcing a female employee onto a desk, shoving her legs apart, and kissing her. Allegedly, there were also a wide variety of verbal harassment, including male officers asking female officers for sex, a male officer calling a female officer “bitch” and “f---king bitch” daily, and supervisors and officers making sexually explicit comments to female officers. Additional offense remarks included “All I want to see of you is the top of your head bobbing up and down while you are on your knees,” and a supervisor frequently saying that women should be barefoot and pregnant.
GEO was also charged with retaliation against female employees who complained of the harassment. When they complained or sought help from GEO, they were disciplined, forced to quit, fired or placed in unsafe conditions in the prison.
After failing to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the conciliation process, EEOC filed a lawsuit in September 2010. ACRD filed a similar suit and the two lawsuits were consolidated. After the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona dismissed claims on the ground s that the allegations did not rise to actionable harassment, EEOC and ACRD appealed to the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s findings because of the cumulative effects such as misconduct has on a women – such as unwanted physical contact, a male employee making gestures while talking dirty, officers using profanity and saying that her bra set off the metal detector – were enough to go to trial.