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EEOC Files Suit Against GEO Group for Sexual Harassment at Arizona Prisons

On September 29, 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against private prison firm GEO Group, alleging that the company and some of its male supervisors permitted a “sexual and sex-based hostile work environment” at two GEO-operated prisons in Florence, Arizona.

According to the suit, female employees at the Arizona State Prison-Florence and Central Arizona Correctional Facility were sexually harassed and assaulted by male staff members, and women who reported such incidents to supervisors faced retaliation.

The case has its origins in a sexual harassment complaint filed with the Arizona Civil Rights Division and the EEOC by a female GEO employee in June 2009. The lawsuit alleges that male staffers verbally and physically harassed female employees, such as grabbing and pinching a female employee, and forcing a female employee onto a desk and kissing and inappropriately touching her. The suit also alleges that GEO Group was aware of the harassment but failed to take steps to stop or prevent it.

The Arizona Attorney General’s office had previously investigated the complaints and filed suit. Under federal law, the EEOC may collect punitive and compensatory damages – remedies unavailable under Arizona state law. On April 11, 2011 the district court denied GEO’s motion to dismiss, and the suit remains pending. See: EEOC v. GEO Group, Inc., U.S.D.C. (D. Ariz.), Case No. 2:10-cv-02088-SRB.

The EEOC had previously sued GEO Group in Pennsylvania in an unrelated case concerning allegations that the company had engaged in religious discrimination at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Delaware County. The district court granted summary judgment to GEO in that suit, which was affirmed by the Third Circuit on February 11, 2010. See: EEOC v. GEO Group, Inc., 616 F.3d 265 (3d Cir. 2010).

Additional source: Arizona Republic

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Related legal case

EEOC v. GEO Group, Inc.