The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into a consent decree with Summit County, Ohio, and related parties, which if approved by the court, will resolve a sex discrimination lawsuit in which the United States intervened in June 2012. The United States joined a lawsuit brought in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio by 21 female deputy sheriffs at the Summit County Jail who claimed they were subjected to discrimination due to a sex-segregated job assignment system implemented at the jail in January 2012. The United States’ complaint in intervention alleged that this system discriminated against female deputies because of their sex and constituted a pattern or practice of sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As a result of this discriminatory practice, the United States alleged female deputies lost the job assignments and shifts they had earned based on their seniority as well as opportunities to bid on overtime postings.
“Bringing an end to practices in the law enforcement community that discriminate against women is a major priority of the Justice Department and the Civil Rights Division. Practices that facially discriminate on the basis of sex that cannot be justified under the law, like the job assignment system used by Summit County, present a major hurdle to workplace equality that the Justice Department will not ignore,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division.
In July 2012, shortly after the United States joined the lawsuit, Summit County abandoned its sex-segregated job assignment system. Under the terms of the consent decree, Summit County has agreed to take several steps to ensure that any job assignment system implemented at the Summit County Jail will comply with Title VII and only use sex-based assignments, if at all, to the limited extent that they are reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the jail. To make this determination, the county will conduct a staffing analysis and develop a lawful staffing plan, which it will review regularly during the life of the decree. The county will also provide training on sex discrimination as well as engage in recruitment efforts to encourage qualified female applicants to apply for deputy positions. Finally, the county will pay $400,000 in individual monetary relief to the affected female deputies and to cover their attorney fees.
“This agreement ensures that female deputies at the Summit County Jail will have the opportunity to do the same jobs as their male counterparts,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “We will continue to press for equality for women in the workplace.”
This is the first pattern or practice lawsuit brought by the Justice Department as a result of a joint project with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) 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. Enforcement of federal employment discrimination laws is a top priority for the Justice Department with this case being handled by attorneys assigned to both the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio.
“Our partnership with Department of Justice allows for the strategic investigation and efficient resolution of discrimination claims in the public sector,” said EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis Jr., of the EEOC Philadelphia District Office. The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, 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 on the Department of Justice website 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.