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Settlement reached in federal sexual harassment suit

Last July, we discussed a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The federal suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, involves a male cook who was allegedly repeatedly sexually harassed by a female co-worker.

According to the plaintiff, the harassment escalated from inappropriate comments to physical contact. He says that supervisors failed to stop the harassment experienced by him and other employees. The suit alleges violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act's Title VII.

Now the DOJ has announced a settlement agreement with the CDCR in the case. If the agreement gets the court's approval, the CDCR will be ordered to pay the plaintiff compensatory damages of $50,000. They will also be required to restore the leave that he says he took to get away from the woman. Further, the CDCR must ensure that it has anti-retaliation and anti-harassment policies in place and that it provides training on these policies for its employees.

One federal prosecutor noted that Title VII applies to all employees, regardless of gender. She said that under the law, "it is illegal to harass someone because of sex, regardless of the sex of the victim or the harasser." U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. praised the settlement. He noted that it "helps ensure continued compliance and furthers our efforts to stamp out employment discrimination."

Some male employees may be embarrassed to report sexual harassment by female or other male colleagues. However, everyone is entitled to be able to do their work without being harassed by other employees or supervisors. If their employer does not handle the situation appropriately and put an end to it, employees have every right to find out what their legal options are.

Source: Imperial Valley News, "Justice Department Settles Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Against California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation" No author given, Apr. 16, 2014

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