Login Register Subscribe
Current Issue

Prison company settles sexual harassment suit

Reprints

A company that operates prisons has agreed to pay $550,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The company, Boca Raton, Florida-based GEO Group Inc., said in a statement the claims against it were at least six years old, and there have been no more such claims.

The EEOC said in its statement Monday that it and the Arizona Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s office found many forms of sexual harassment and retaliation against female correctional officers that occurred between 2006 and 2012 at the Central Arizona Correctional Facility and the Arizona State-Prison West Facility in Florence, Arizona, including sexual assault and a wide variety of verbal harassment.

Both agencies also charged that GEO retaliated against female officers when they complained of the harassment, and would discipline them, force them to quit, fire them or place them in unsafe conditions in the prison.

The statement said litigation over the issue included a March 2016 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which reversed a ruling by the U.S. District Court in Phoenix that had dismissed claims on behalf of a class of women identified during the litigation and held that some of the allegations did not rise to the level of actionable harassment.

Under terms of the settlement, $550,000 will be paid to 16 women, and GEO must send letters of regret to the women and provide them with employment references, among other provisions.

EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill said in the statement, “Sexual harassment has no place in the work environment. This kind of misconduct is degrading and inexcusable and violates federal anti-discrimination laws.”

GEO said in its statement that it “mandates zero tolerance towards all forms of sexual harassment in all its facilities.” It said, “The claims included in the lawsuit took place between 2006 and 2012, 6-12 years ago, and no such claims have arisen since.

“As a result of the settlement, The GEO Group has implemented additional measures including enhanced training, reporting and monitoring,” the statement said.