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FCI Phoenix Physician's Assistant Settles EEOC Discrimination Claim

Cynthia O. Sumayo settled an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) racial discrimination claim against the Federal Bureau of Prisons on March 21, 2001. Sumayo agreed to accept back pay for 21 days, to remain resigned from her position as a physician's assistant at Federal Correctional Institution Phoenix, and to never reapply at the Bureau of Prisons again.

In her complaint, Sumayo alleged that she was discriminated against on the basis of her race (Filipino). She alleged that she mistakenly charged a rental car to her government credit card, which was an unauthorized charge, and was suspended some five months later for a total of three weeks due to the incident absent immediately reimbursing the Bureau of Prisons for the error.

According to Sumayo, the timing of her suspension was highly suspicious. Indeed, according to the complaint, Sumayo was suspended the day after she testified on behalf of a plaintiff in a racial discrimination case against the Bureau of Prisons. That case, according to Sumayo's EEOC complaint, concerned then FCI Phoenix Warden Pontesso's pattern of racial discrimination in which he was allegedly attempting to drive all non-Caucasians out of the Health Services Unit. According to the EEOC complaint, Warden Pontesso had forced one employee to involuntarily resign, while three others were otherwise terminated. All were "minority practitioners of foreign background[s]". He replaced them with those of Caucasian backgrounds.

Interestingly, the Bureau of Prisons did not include any language disclaiming liability in the settlement agreement, which is typical of such agreements because such disclaimers allow the Bureau of Prisons to effectively say that they did nothing wrong, while paying a complainant to settle their lawsuit or complaint.

The documents from this case were obtained by Prison Legal News after a 12-year battle with the Bureau of Prisons over a Freedom of Information Act request.

Source: Sumayo v. John Ashcroft, EEOC No. 350-AJ-8083X (May 30, 2001).

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Related legal case

Sumayo v. John Ashcroft