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California Prison System Settles Employee Lawsuit for $775,000; Second Suit Pending

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) employees Edna Miller and Frances Mackey filed a civil lawsuit in state district court relating to alleged sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Govt. Code § 12940. The court granted the CDCR's motion for summary judgment. The judgment was appealed. The court of appeals affirmed and a petition for review was filed with the California Supreme Court.

While that appeal was pending, Mackey died. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment. The CDCR then settled with Mackey's estate, paying the $250,000 to the estate and the estate's attorney, Barbara Lawless.

Miller refused to settle and fired Lawless. The CDCR, the estate and Lawless agreed that the settlement covered any attorney fees incurred during Lawless's representation of Miller. Apparently, the state action is awaiting trial on Miller's claims.

In federal district court, Miller filed a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the CDCR, employees of the California Attorney General's Office (AGO) and various other state employees.

Miller's inexpertly-drafted complaint alleges that she was a civil peace officer with the CDCR and had been subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination that was the proximate cause for her not being promoted to Associate Warden. This harassment allegedly caused her to suffer psychiatric injury that made it impossible for her to continue working. Thus, she had been on medical disability leave since 1998. Miller alleged that the Supreme Court had already determined that she had been denied the promotion to Associate Warden and sexually harassed in the 2005 decision referred to above.

Miller alleged that when she filed the state action complaining of the harassment, she became the victim of retaliation in several ways. First, the CDCR refused to allow her to return to work except in the place where she received the alleged psychiatric injury. Second, the AGO employees refused to settle the suit with her (as they had with Mackey's estate) unless she signed an agreement never to seek employment with the CDCR again. Third, when she refused to settle, AGO employees interfered with her private business by serving subpoenas on her at her customers' location and insinuating that her business was being investigated for money laundering, causing her to lose customers. The AGO also allegedly made public her and her business partner's private business records, obtained via subpoena, by filing the information in publicly-available court records. Fourth, the DCR allegedly unlawfully cut off Miller's medical benefits while she was on medical disability leave. See: Miller v. California Dept. of Corrections, Sacramento County, Superior Court No. 99AS03354 and Miller v. California Dept. of Corrections, U.S.D.C. (Los Angeles) No. CVO9 8734-PA.

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Related legal cases

Miller v. California Dept. of Corrections

Miller v. California Dept. of Corrections