The Justice Department announced today that it has moved to intervene in Hawkins, et al. v. Summit County, Ohio, et al., a private lawsuit alleging sex discrimination by Summit County, Ohio, and the Summit County Sheriff, as well as other defendants. The United States’ complaint in intervention alleges that the county and sheriff discriminated against twenty female deputy sheriffs who filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other similarly-situated female deputies because of their sex and engaged in a pattern or practice of sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The complaint alleges that in January 2012, the county and sheriff implemented a sex-segregated job assignment system at the Summit County Jail in Akron, Ohio. Prior to January 2012, female deputies at the jail were allowed to hold job assignments performing intake and security-related functions regardless of the gender of the inmates being supervised. Under the new job assignment system, female deputies are limited to performing intake and security-related functions involving female inmate supervision only. As a result of the implementation of this new job assignment system, many female deputies lost their previous job assignments, previous shifts, were unable to pick their preferred job assignments or were unable to pick their preferred shifts. The complaint in intervention seeks a court order that would require the county and sheriff to utilize a lawful job assignment system and to develop and institute policies that would prevent its employees from being subjected to discrimination based upon sex. The relief sought would also include monetary relief for the 20 charging parties and other similarly situated female deputies as compensation for damages sustained as a result of the alleged discrimination.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate discrimination in employment on the basis of sex,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Through our partnership with the EEOC, the department continues its commitment to vigorously enforcing the right of employees to be free from sex discrimination in the work place.”
Twenty female deputies filed charges of sex discrimination with the Cleveland District Office of the EEOC. After investigating these charges, finding reasonable cause to believe that the charging parties were discriminated against because of their sex, and unsuccessfully attempting to conciliate the matter, the EEOC referred the charges to the Department of Justice. This lawsuit is brought by the Department of Justice as a result of a project designed to ensure vigorous enforcement of Title VII against state and local governmental employers by enhancing cooperation between the EEOC and the Civil Rights Division.
“The work of the commission is made more effective and efficient with interagency coordination,” said Jacqueline A. Berrien, chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “Our ongoing project with the Justice Department helps to ensure that employees receive the full protection of the laws prohibiting workplace discrimination.”
“We are committed to working for equal opportunity for all,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “Female deputies are capable of performing jobs they’re restricted from under Summit County’s current system, and this lawsuit is designed to end that discriminatory practice.”
Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin or religion, and prohibits retaliation against an employee who opposes an unlawful employment practice, or because the employee has made a charge or participated in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under the Act. More information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp/index.html.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.