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BOP Settles Religious and Gender Discrimination Claim for $1,000

The Bureau of Prisons settled an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim of religious and gender discrimination for $1,000.00 in March 2003.

The complaint, brought by senior prison guard Wallace L. Austin, alleged discrimination by the staff at United States Penitentiary Marion, Illinois, on the basis of his religious denomination (Southern Baptist) and sex (male).

The dispute revolved around Austin's request for Easter Sunday, April 4, 1999 off as a religious holiday. According to the complaint, Austin made a timely request through the proper channels, but was denied by USP Marion Lieutenant Clinton and Captain Benson, for discriminatory reasons.

Austin concluded that he was discriminated against because a female prison guard with less seniority, Kari Sanders, was given the day off, despite having made the request two weeks after Austin. He also alleged that Sanders, along with USP Marion Captain Benson and Warden Hedrick, are Lutheran.

Austin demanded accommodation for his "Sabbath + Holy Days," a written apology from all involved parties and "financial compensation for pain, grieving, distress + suffering." As he explained in his complaint, "It grieves and troubles me each time I am required to work a Sabbath day or Holy day because of the Bible's command to keep the day HOLY."

Instead, Austin agreed to drop his claim in exchange for a one-time payment of $1,000.00. He did maintain that "his complaints [are] valid" as part of the agreement; however, he agreed to dismiss his case with prejudice and release the Bureau of Prisons from all liability. The settlement was to remain confidential, and the Bureau of Prisons denied any wrongdoing.

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

See: EEOC Case No. 210-A0-6571X, BOP Agency Case No. P-99-0228.

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Related legal case

EEOC Case No. 210-A0-6571X