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Feds, Az Corrections settle sex harassment charges

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Feds, Az Corrections settle sex harassment charges

Female officer at Tucson facility to be awarded $182,500

WASHINGTON – The Arizona Department of Corrections will award a female correctional officer $182,500 to settle allegations of sexual harassment by her co-workers from 2005 to 2008, the Department of Justice announced.

The consent decree announced Thursday also calls on the DOC to review its sexual harassment policies and provide training on equal-employment-opportunity law to all employees at the Tucson complex.

The agreement must still be approved by a U.S. District Court judge.

An Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman noted Friday that the alleged harassment occurred under a previous administration but that such action is not tolerated at any of the state’s prison complexes.

The deal settles complaints filed by the female officer at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Tucson who was “regularly subjected to verbal and physical sexual harassment by several of her male supervisors and co-workers from early 2005 through November 2008,” according to a Justice Department statement.

“Conduct included unwelcome grabbing, touching, hugging and kissing, as well as exposure to sexually explicit comments and pornography,” it said.

The Justice Department said the woman’s repeated complaints to managers were not investigated. It said the acts violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion or sex.

“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 Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a prepared statement.

“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,” Perez’s statement said.

Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said the department encourages employees to speak up if they see harassment.

“Any employees that report either being a victim or a witness of this type of behavior will not be subject to any retaliation whatsoever,” he said in a written statement. “We encourage employees to document any such incidents and report them immediately.”

Lamoreaux said the case predates current Director Charles Ryan. He could not immediately say Friday if the woman is still employed by the Department of Corrections.

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