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Justice Department Files Title VII Suit Against Alabama Sheriff

Twelve female correction officers filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran (MCSO). The women said they were subjected to a hostile and sexually offensive work environment. The EEOC investigated the charges and found a reasonable basis to believe that the MCSO violated their rights under Title VII. The EEOC unsuccessfully attempted to resolve the claims with the MCSO, causing the EEOC to refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ filed suit.

According to the DOJ suit, about 73% of the correctional officers in Mobile County are women. These women suffer from “mental anguish, stress, anxiety and depression; fear and other emotional distress; headaches; chest pains; insomnia and other physical symptoms; loss of sexual desire; mental anguish when going to work; burnout; and loss of sick leave when compelled to take leave in order to avoid or escape the incessant sexual harassment.” They suffer because of the severe and pervasive sexual harassment from male inmates who exposed their genitals, masturbated, and directed sexual slurs, sexual propositions, threats of sexual violence and sexually degrading comments towards the female employees. The female correction officers complained to the MSCO but supervisors did not take their complaints seriously, instead telling them “It’s part of your job. If you don’t like it, find another job.” The women stopped complaining because of the lack of action taken against the offenders. The DOJ seeks monetary damages for the women and orders directing the Sheriff’s Office to develop and implement policies to prevent and remedy sexually harassing conduct.