Two female prison guards sue state
alleging sexual harassment
Here's our Officer's lawsuit. And an entry from Karen Jones from the MTWT guestbook on Thursday 09/25/2003 1:30:54pm
"Lawsuit will be filed on September 26, 2003 at 8:30am in Duval County. A press conference will be held with the Officers and Attorney's for comments. at the Duval County Court House at 11:00am for anyone who is interested. If you cannot attend, please watch the news and read the papers. Here We Go!"
We promised our support, I know I meant it. Kay Lee
Saturday, September 27, 2003
By RON WORD, Associated Press
Two prison guards, who allege they were pressured to perform sexual acts in exchange for favorable work shifts, are suing the Florida Department of Corrections for civil rights violations. In a suit filed Friday in Duval County Circuit Court, Lt. Felicia R. Suelter of Lawtey and Corrections Officer Karen A. Jones of Starke accuse the department of allowing an atmosphere of sexual innuendo and harassment to run rampant in the prison system.
JACKSONVILLE — Two prison guards, who allege they were pressured to perform sexual acts in exchange for favorable work shifts, are suing the Florida Department of Corrections for civil rights violations.
In a suit filed Friday in Duval County Circuit Court, Lt. Felicia R. Suelter of Lawtey and Corrections Officer Karen A. Jones of Starke accuse the department of allowing an atmosphere of sexual innuendo and harassment to run rampant in the prison system.
Their attorney, Neil Henrichsen, said the lawsuit is seeking actual damages for lost wages and loss of employment benefits and compensatory damages for mental anguish, distress, humiliation and loss of dignity.
"These women want a zero-tolerance policy enforced by the Florida Department of Corrections with regard to sexual harassment," he said. "Sexual harassment in this dangerous job should not be going on."
The suit alleges Suelter and Jones were "subjected to a work environment where terms and conditions of employment, such as favorable work shifts, were awarded for sexual favors performed by female employees on males supervisors."
Jones claims when she refused to perform oral sex for a major to get a shift change, he allegedly told her, "I don't get what I want, so you don't get what you want."
Al Dominguez, director of government and community affairs for the Department of Corrections, said the department has a policy against sexual harassment.
"We are diligent in investigating allegations of sexual harassment," he said. "We can't have an environment where it is tolerated."
About a third of the department's 23,000 employees are women.
Suelter, a third-generation corrections officer and an employee since 1980, said other DOC male employees commented daily "on the breasts, buttocks and legs of female employees."
When Jones complained to Suelter about sexual discrimination, harassment and threats, Suelter said she was discouraged from filing a report.
The women claim they were often referred to by derogatory names by supervisors and co-workers.
When they complained, they were told "boys will be boys," Suelter said.
Both officers said they did not feel safe in the prisons because they were unsure if other officers would back them up if they had trouble with inmates.
The women claim their complaints were met with retaliation and transfers while the harassers were allowed to keep their positions.
Suelter, 45. who has been given five transfer orders in the past year, has been on medical leave since July due to emotional stress. She was assigned to work at Dinsmore Correctional Institution in Jacksonville, Lawtey Correctional Institution and New River Correctional Institution.
Jones, 36, began work as a correctional officer in 1996 at Union Correctional Institution and was later transferred to Lawtey Correctional Institution and Baker Correctional Institution.
Jones has recently been notified she has lost her status as an officer with the department and was told she is being considered for termination. She said she is being fired because she filed a workers compensation case against the department after injuring her wrist and ankle.
The women accuse the department of violating the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 and Florida's Whistleblower Act.
Two Women File Suit Against the Dept. of Corrections
for Sexual Harassment
Discuss your opinion on thisBy Darryl Tardy
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL - Two female employees with the Florida Department of Corrections are claiming they were repeatedly harassed and pressured to perform sex acts while on the job. Now, veteran officers Karen Jones and Felicia Suelter plan on filing suit against the department.
The women say the abuses have gone for years. Abuses they claim are taking place against women who work in jails and prisons across the state of Florida.
Jones and Suelter plan on filing their lawsuit Friday. They say they hope to change the justice system for everyone.
According to Lieutenant Felicia Suelter, "Female staff are kind of like toys in the department. They don't view them as professional correctional officers. I felt very threatened and very intimidated."
Karen Jones claims their superiors sexually harassed her and other officers. She says, "I was humiliated. I had to defend myself against other staff to let them know that no there is anything going on. Take the jokes."
And when the women complained Lt. Suelter says, "The warden's comments were it's just juvenile behavior on the males part. You just need to wait and it will blow over."
Neil Henrichsen represents the two women involved in the lawsuit. He says the allegations have prevented the women from doing their job effectively. "These two women cannot do their job as they were trained to do nor can a lot of other women because of the work environment they're subjected to."
That's an environment Karen Jones and Felicia Suelter are hoping to change for other women who work for the Department of Corrections statewide. Lt. Suelter says, "Women need to be treated fairly and equally. And be able to work and be able to do their jobs free of any sexual harassment or discrimination."
A spokesman for the Department of Corrections told First Coast News they had no comment regarding pending litigation.
Of the nearly 15-thousand corrections officers who work in the State of Florida, only thirty percent are women.
Created: 9/25/2003 6:45:21 PMUpdated: 9/26/2003 7:17:54 AM
Edited by Darryl Tardy, Anchor-Reporter
First Coast News
© 2003 First Coast News All rights reserved.
Federal Lawsuit Update
Thu, 28 Oct 2004
Dear Friends, HUGE victory in the Federal lawsuit against FL DOC. A Federal Judge struck down an appeal by DC to separate all six of our cases into individual cases. The Judge ruled that there was enough evidence to try this case as a group and not in break us up into
The Judge was appalled at what we were suing for and agreed with us that the attacks against women for sexual favors and the retaliation that is taking place needs to be heard because it a widespread Department problem. HURRAY!!!!!! Let's rock and roll!!!!!
This Judge was not happy that DC wanted to discredit our depositions, etc. It may be one
tiny baby step, but it is a step in the right direction. Just wanted to pass the Great news on
to you. Let's keep each other informed on our cases against this corrupt agency. Soon, the public is going to be outraged at the practices of staff and inmates. It has to STOP!!!! Together, we can beat these guys and show the world that we mean business and we are not going to stop until something is done to change this "good ole boy" system.
LAWTEY C/Os' SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUIT
SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUIT
|MTWT Prison Index|