CR (202) 616-2765 TDD (202) 514-1888

ILLINOIS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT ACCUSED OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION AGREES TO PAY $440,000 IN COMPENSATION WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An Illinois County Sheriff's Department that allegedly allowed female jailers to be sexually harassed and refused to hire female patrol officers for 17 years agreed today to stop the harassment and pay more than $400,000 in damages to victims of the discrimination, the Justice Department announced. Today's agreement resolves a Justice Department suit filed in March 1994 alleging that the McHenry County Sheriff's Department discriminated against women in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The suit claimed that female correction officers at the McHenry County Correctional Center in Woodstock were subjected to explicit and vulgar language, crude drawings, and unwelcome physical conduct of a sexual nature. It claimed that these acts created a sexually hostile work environment. The suit also alleged that female applicants for entry-level patrol officer positions were denied jobs because of their sex and that persons who complained about the sexual harassment and discrimination were subjected to retaliation. "Today's agreement remedies past discrimination and prevents it from recurring," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "Our law enforcement agencies are no place for discrimination or sexual harassment." Under the settlement, filed today in the U.S. District Court in Rockford, the county will: ​ not discriminate against females working in the Sheriff's Department or seeking jobs there; ​ ​ ​ ​ not retaliate against individuals who complain about sexual harassment; hire an equal employment opportunity officer and train its employees on sexual harassment; promptly investigate internal complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation; establish a $440,000 back pay fund to compensate women identified as victims of the discriminatory practices and provide them with offers of employment as patrol officers as well as retroactive seniority and retirement benefits; and ​ make good faith efforts to recruit and employ female patrol officers in numbers that reflect their availability in the labor market.

Patrick noted that more than 70 patrol officers were hired in the Sheriff's Department during the 17 years prior to the filing of the suit, but that all of them were male. "This settlement represents a victory for women who desire to pursue careers in law enforcement," said James B. Burns, U.S. Attorney in Chicago. "Male locker room conduct is passe, and we are sending a message that we intend to make it extinct." Next Friday, Magistrate P. Michael Mahoney will decide whether to conditionally approve the agreement. He will then schedule a hearing to allow individuals in the community to comment before deciding whether to give final approval to the agreement. "We are pleased that the county decided to do the right thing in this case," added Patrick. # # # 95-615