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$100,000 Jury Verdict in BOP Gender Discrimination Case

On September 27, 2002, a federal jury sitting in the United States District Court in Colorado found in favor of the plaintiff in a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) worker against her employer. Another $190,000 in costs and attorney's fees were later awarded by the court in a separate hearing. PLN is reporting on this case now after a longstanding Freedom of Information Act request was just recently fulfilled by the BOP.

Karen Scott was employed as a corrections lieutenant at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, when, in February 1997 she filed a formal complaint of discrimination. When her complaint went unanswered by the BOP after 180 days, she filed this lawsuit alleging gender discrimination under 42 U.S.C. Sect. 2000e, otherwise known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In her lawsuit Scott alleged that she was subjected to "offensive conduct and language" by her male supervisors. This conduct was routine at USP Florence, Scott alleged, as "male managers refused to address female employees in the same manner as they addressed male employees" and "treated female employees in a derogatory and sexist fashion."

Scott said she was specifically singled out for disparate treatment based on her sex, including being denied placement in a mentoring program, being denied promotions that were instead given to less-qualified and less-senior male employees, being reassigned to duties of lesser responsibility than customarily assigned to lieutenants, being denied lateral transfer requests, being denied opportunities for training and self-development, and suffering retaliation for "her informal and subsequently formal complaints" of discrimination. Scott said she was also issued a letter threatening her with suspension for filing her formal complaint.

In addition to seeking unspecified monetary damages, Scott's suit sought punitive damages and back pay, and an order enjoining any further acts of discrimination or retaliation.

After several dozen motions were filed by each side, two failed settlement negotiations, and nearly five years of litigation, the case went to a six person jury trial in September 2002. After a five-day trial, the jury came back with a verdict in favor of Scott on her Title VII claim of a hostile work environment, but found in favor of the defendants on her retaliation claim.

Defendant -- then Attorney General John Ashcroft -- appealed the verdict, which he later withdrew in 2003. At a separate hearing, the court awarded Scott's lawyer's $189,903.30 in attorney's fees, plus $4,152.50 in expert witness fees. See: Scott v. Reno (Ashcroft), et al., No. 98-WM­867 (U.S.D.C. Col.).

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Related legal case

Scott v. Reno (Ashcroft), et al.