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$1.6 Million Settlement for Missouri Prison Guard Subjected to Sexual Harassment

The Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) has agreed to a $1.6 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by a female guard who alleged she was subjected to sexual harassment at the Kansas City Reentry Center (KCRC).

Tina Gallego was transferred to work at KCRC in September 2015. While there she said she was subjected to sexual harassment that included “vulgar and explicit comments, sexual innuendo, sexual advances, and physical contact.”

Gallego was subpoenaed to testify in late December 2015 or early January 2016 at a trial in a sexual harassment suit brought by a co-worker, Deborah Hesse, who ultimately received a $1.92 million settlement from the MDOC. [See: PLN, Feb. 2018, p.1]. Around the time she was subpoenaed, Gallego was interviewed by an attorney general and detailed the sexual harassment she had personally experienced. No action was taken on her allegations.

Once Gallego returned to work after testifying in Hesse’s case, she was forced into an “off the record” meeting with an MDOC investigator who told her “this is going to get a whole hell of a lot worse before it gets better.” She told the investigator about the sexual harassment that she and other female guards had been subjected to while on duty.

Several prisoners informed Gallego they had heard male guards talking about her and that they were “pissed” and “talking some real shit on you,” and she should “watch her back.” She was threatened by a male co-worker who reportedly told her, “We’re going to whip your ass.”

Gallego submitted written complaints and was placed on administrative leave on January 23, 2016. While on leave, she learned that two employees who engaged in harassment were fired and another resigned. The MDOC notified her that her leave would end on August 1, 2016, and that after a “thorough investigation” it was determined other staff members were “performing their duties professionally.”

When Gallego returned to work, she was denied keys to the housing areas where she was assigned, which put her in danger, and denied access to the prison’s computer system. Also, a doctor determined she had been poisoned, which Gallego said occurred when she left a soda can unattended at work and then later drank from it. She incurred several days off as a result, was denied FMLA leave and went on unpaid leave.

Through attorneys Gene P. Graham, Jr., Deborah J. Blakely and David A. Lunceford, Gallego filed a civil action in state court. The MDOC agreed to a $1.6 million settlement, which was split evenly among Gallego and her attorneys, on April 19, 2018. See: Gallego v. Missouri Department of Corrections, Jackson County Circuit Court (MO), Case No. 1616-CV24216.

According to a July 2018 news article, Missouri has paid more than $52 million over the past five years to settle sexual harassment cases among all state agencies, including the MDOC. 

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Additional sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Associated Press, www.thepitchkc.com

 

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Gallego v. Missouri Department of Corrections


 

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