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Former DOC Employee Awarded $300,000 in Workplace Sexual Harassment Case

by Matt Clarke

In May 2019, a federal district court issued an amended judgment awarding $300,000 to a former employee of the Idaho Department of Correction (DOC) in a lawsuit over sexual harassment and a hostile work environment for women.

Cynthia Fuller worked for the DOC for eight years. Hired as a guard in 2004, she was first promoted to sergeant then later employed at the Caldwell III Probation and Parole Office. There she met senior parole/probation officer Herbt Cruz, who initiated an off-duty romantic relationship with her in 2011.

After dating briefly, Fuller attempted to end the relationship with Cruz because she felt he was “becoming overly-controlling and physically aggressive toward her.” She was initially unsuccessful at breaking off the relationship and began seeing a therapist due to the stress it caused her. Eventually, she disclosed the relationship to her DOC supervisors. Soon thereafter, Cruz allegedly kidnapped, beat, raped and sodomized Fuller because she was trying to end their relationship. She did not immediately report this to the police.

Unbeknownst to her, weeks earlier Cruz had been placed on administrative leave due to a pending criminal investigation against him for allegedly raping another woman. Although DOC supervisors knew about the investigation, they did not tell Fuller about it when she reported her relationship with Cruz. However, they did warn other female employees at the parole office to “watch out for Cruz.”

After learning the nature of the investigation, Fuller met with the investigating officer and reported that Cruz had assaulted her. She obtained a court order temporarily restraining Cruz from coming within 1,000 feet of her.

DOC supervisors initially told Fuller she could take paid administrative leave, then backed down on that offer. They refused to inform the parole office workers, many of whom were friends of Cruz, that he was prohibited from returning to work due to the restraining order. Fuller was afraid to return to the office; she used up her leave and sick days, then decided to quit.

With the assistance of Bosie attorneys Erika Birch and Kass Harstad, Fuller filed a federal lawsuit against the state, the DOC and two DOC supervisors, alleging violations under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988 and 2000, et seq., Idaho Code § 67-5902(6) (the Idaho Human Rights Act) and state tort law. A jury found in her favor in February 2019 and awarded her $1.8 million, which was reduced by the district court to $300,000 on May 22, 2019 due to a cap on damages for Title VII claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(a)(1). See: Fuller v. State of Idaho, U.S.D.C. (D. Idaho), Case No. 1:13-cv-00035-DCN. 

Related legal case

Fuller v. State of Idaho