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Justice Department sues Michigan and MDOC for discrimination

The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Corrections for allegedly discriminating against female correctional officers in violation of the Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit alleges Michigan and MDOC discriminated against female employees assigned to Huron Valley Correctional Facility by implementing a female-only assignment policy and denying requests by female employees for transfers.

“Employers may not unduly lock workers into or out of a job because of their sex,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a press release. “Qualified male and female correctional officers deserve equal opportunities to compete for job assignments and transfers without unnecessary barriers.”

The complaint alleges in addition to the other allegations, male employees were granted transfer requests while requests by females were denied. In addition, female employees were allegedly required to work excessive overtime hours.

The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the defendants to stop discriminatory job assignment and transfer policies, according to the Justice Department.
The suit also includes monetary damages for the female correctional officers harmed by the alleged discrimination.

“The Michigan Department of Corrections’ policy unnecessarily limits job opportunities for its female employees at the Huron Valley Correctional Facility,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, in a press release. “We are not challenging positions where it makes sense to assign only female officers, but only those positions that could reasonably be filled by men or women. By limiting positions that are not justifiably related to inmate privacy to women officers, MDOC created staffing limitations that harm female employees by forcing them to work overtime and preventing them from transferring to other facilities that are closer to their homes, offer more favorable conditions or provide promotional opportunities.”

According to the Justice Department, 28 women filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission challenging the female only  job assignment and transfer policies. EEOC's Detroit Field Office investigated the allegations and found reasonable cause to believe MDOC discriminated against female employees based on their sex.

The EEOC attempted to come to an agreement with MDOC, but when that was unsuccessful, referred the charges to the Justice Department.

“Making decisions on job assignments and transfers based on a person’s sex violates federal law and is completely unacceptable,” said Director Gail Cober of the EEOC’s Detroit Field Office in a press release. “The EEOC will continue to work in partnership with the DOJ to ensure that public employers follow the law and we will continue to fight for victims of sex discrimination to ensure that everyone has equal opportunity in the workplace.”

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