The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into a settlement agreement that, if approved by the court, will resolve allegations that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) discriminated against an employee because of his sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The department filed its complaint against CDCR in July 2013, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The complaint alleged that Joe Cummings, a male cook with CDCR, was sexually harassed by a female co-worker and that CDCR failed to take timely steps both to end the harassment and to remedy it. Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment because of sex, which includes sexual harassment, as well as because of color, national origin, race and religion.
According to the complaint, Cummings’s co-worker made frequent unwanted sexual advances toward Cummings for more than a year. The complaint alleges that the co-worker frequently made lewd and sexually suggestive comments to Cummings that he explicitly rejected as unwelcome. The complaint further alleges that the co-worker’s inappropriate verbal communications with Cummings escalated, over time, to unwanted physical contact. According to the complaint, Cummings and other CDCR personnel complained numerous times to CDCR supervisors about the harassment, but CDCR failed to take timely remedial action to both end the harassment and to discipline the harasser. The complaint alleges that CDCR’s failure to take timely action to address sexual harassment violates both Title VII and CDCR’s own anti-harassment policy, which requires its supervisors to prevent sexual harassment and to promptly address complaints of sexual harassment.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, CDCR must pay Cummings $50,000 in compensatory damages and restore leave that he indicated he used to try to avoid the alleged harasser. CDCR must also maintain appropriate anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies and procedures. In addition, CDCR must provide appropriate training for its personnel on these policies and procedures.
“It is illegal to harass someone because of sex, regardless of the sex of the victim or the harasser,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “Title VII gives all employees the right to work in an environment that is free of sexual harassment, and the Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously enforce that right.”
“Sexual harassment in the workplace is simply intolerable,” said U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Today's settlement with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation helps ensure continued compliance and furthers our efforts to stamp out employment discrimination.”
This case was litigated by Senior Trial Attorneys Raheemah Abdulaleem and Trevor Blake of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Robyn-Marie Lyon Monteleone for the Central District of California.
More information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available at this website. The continued enforcement of Title VII is a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is available on its website.