California prisons agency accused of sex discrimination in federal suit

July 12, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against California’s prisons agency for alleged sexual discrimination against an employee.

Joe B. Cummings, a cook for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), alleges that he was sexually harassed for more than a year by a female co-worker until she was put on administrative leave for an unrelated reason in 2009.

The lawsuit announced Thursday by federal attorneys was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and alleges Cummings was subjected to frequent unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances, including profane and suggestive comments and inappropriate touching. 

In August 2008, the co-worker forced her hand down Cummings’ pants and struck him in the head, the lawsuit alleges.

Cummings made several complaints to supervisors but the department did not take timely steps to end the behavior, the complaint alleges.

“Employees, regardless of their sex, have the right to work in an environment that is free from sexual harassment,” said Jocelyn Samuels, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. "The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously enforce that right."

A spokeswoman for the prison agency said it is reviewing the lawsuit.

“We take complaints of sexual harassment very seriously,” Deborah Hoffman said. “CDCR has strict anti-discrimination polices that we expect every employee to adhere to.”


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