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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Justice Department Settles with Arizona Department of Corrections Resolving Sexual Harassment Allegations

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into a consent decree with the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) that, if approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, will resolve allegations that the ADC discriminated against a female employee, based upon her sex, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

The department’s complaint, filed today along with the consent decree, alleges that Susan Peterson, a female correctional officer at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Tucson, Ariz., was regularly subjected to verbal and physical sexual harassment by several of her male supervisors and coworkers from early 2005 through November 2008.  That conduct included unwelcome grabbing, touching, hugging and kissing, as well as exposure to sexually explicit comments and pornography.  The complaint alleges that despite Peterson’s timely and repeated complaints to ADC management about the harassment over a nearly three year period, ADC did not investigate her complaints or take any corrective action until November 2008.  The department’s complaint was based on a charge of discrimination filed by Peterson with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that was forwarded to the department by the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office.

Under the terms of the consent decree, which must still be approved by the federal district court, ADC is required to review and revise its sexual harassment policies to protect its employees from sexual harassment and must provide training on equal employment opportunity law and its sexual harassment policies to all employees at its Tucson complex.  The consent decree also requires the ADC to pay Peterson a monetary award of $182,500.

“All Americans are guaranteed the right to work in an environment free from unlawful harassment and retaliation,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “The department is pleased that we were able to work cooperatively with the Arizona Department of Corrections to resolve this matter without the need for contested litigation.”

The enforcement of Title VII is a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available at www.justice.gov/crt/ and www.justice.gov/crt/emp/.

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