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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitationfor Sex Discrimination

The Department of Justice announced today the filing of a lawsuit, against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), alleging that CDCR discriminated against Joe B. Cummings on the basis of his sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.  Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. 

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that Cummings’s former co-worker at CDCR sexually harassed him for more than a year until she was placed on administrative leave, for unrelated reasons, in October 2009.   According to the complaint, Cummings, a male cook with CDCR, was subjected to frequent unwanted and unwelcomed sexual advances made towards him by a female co-worker, including frequent profane and suggestive comments and inappropriate touching of his person.  The complaint alleges that the female co-worker’s misconduct escalated in August 2008, when she forced her hand down Cummings’s pants and struck him in the head.   

The United States alleges that Cummings made numerous complaints to his supervisors about the sexual harassment and that CDCR failed to take timely steps to end the harassment or to discipline the harasser.  The complaint alleges that the CDCR failed to follow its own anti-discrimination policy, which charges CDCR’s supervisors with preventing and correcting allegations of sexual harassment of which they become aware through either a report made to them or by personal observation.  Through this lawsuit, the United States seeks declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the CDCR to develop and implement policies that would prevent CDCR employees from being subjected to sexual harassment.  The United States also seeks monetary relief for Cummings to compensate him for the damages he sustained as a result of the alleged discrimination.

Cummings originally filed a charge of sex discrimination with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which referred the charge to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office investigated the matter, determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discrimination had occurred, and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.

“Employees, regardless of their sex, have the right to work in an environment that is free from sexual harassment,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.   "The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously enforce that right."

The 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 at www.usdoj.gov/crt.

Press Release Number: 
Updated September 10, 2015