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27-Year-Old Sexual Harassment Case Continues in D.C.

Deborah Jean Bryant started working in the D.C. prison typing pool in the 1980s. In 1987, Ms. Bryant became the secretary for a senior prison official, John Lattimore. At some point during her service for Mr. Lattimore, he began repeatedly asking her out, he told her that she had a “nice derriere” and told another employee that, “Deborah could have anything she wants if she does the right thing.” Mr. Lattimore also purportedly told her that he was “in love” with her and that Ms. Bryant “should sit in his lap so that he could play Santa Claus.”

While she did refuse his advances, Ms. Bryant did not complain for some time. She believed that her complaints would not be well received in an environment of pervasive sexism. However, Ms. Bryant was demoted to work as a typist in the cellblock for the inmates. She ended up severely depressed and unable to work for an extended period of time.

The District of Columbia’s human rights director found that Ms. Bryant had been denied advancement in her job because of sexual discrimination. The corrections department was ordered to pay her back wages and promote her. Instead the department appealed the decision, spending 11 years protesting the merits of the director’s decision. Once that appeal was exhausted, another nine years were spent arguing over whether she was entitled to interest on her un-paid back wages. In 2012, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that Ms. Bryant should receive interest. The corrections department issued her a check for less than it was ordered to pay, claiming a previous math error had led to an inflated amount. Ms. Bryant has been pursing the case to obtain the full amount owed to her. She was 47 when she brought her original case. She is now 73 years old.