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$1.1 Million Settlement for Michigan Parole Officer in Sexual Harassment Suit

by David M. Reutter

The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a lawsuit alleging parole officer Shannon Woods was subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment for complaining about the harassment.

Her suit alleged that immediately after being hired as a parole officer in April 2011 in the MDOC’s Lawton Parole Office, she was subjected to a “sexually hostile work environment by co-worker Ryan Johnson.” Johnson asked Woods “incessantly to go to lunch, dinner, and drinks,” which she refused.

The complaint also alleged that Johnson rubbed Woods’ shoulders at work in a sexual manner and forcibly kissed her, and that he  would come to Woods’ “desk and sit on her desk with his genitals bulging through his crotch and near her.” In November 2013, Johnson “took out his penis and placed it on top of a wine bottle, took a picture of it, and then texted it to Ms. Wood and asked her ‘did she like the picture.’”

Woods reported the conduct to her immediate supervisor, Monica Burton, but the abuse continued. After Woods filed a formal complaint with the MDOC, she was ostracized, retaliated against and labeled a “snitch” by her colleagues. She was denied a transfer to another office. Her complaint alleged that no action was taken against Johnson “due to his status as a union steward, and with ‘friends in high places’” within the prison system. 

Johnson was known by MDOC officials to be a serial sexual harasser, and he had been investigated previously for exposing himself to three other female employees. “They moved this guy around and then he finally landed at Shannon Woods’ job and started sexually harassing her within the first week of being there,” said Woods’ attorney, Jonathan Marko

Woods filed suit in state and federal court in January 2015. The $1.1 million settlement was reached almost four years later, in December 2018, and both the state and federal cases were dismissed as part of the agreement. See: Woods v. Michigan Department of Corrections, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Mich.), Case No. 2:15-cv-10324-AC-DRG. 

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Related legal case

Woods v. Michigan Department of Corrections