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

KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AGREES TO PAY FEMALE EMPLOYEE $45,000 FOR ALLEGED SEXUAL HARASSMENT WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Kansas Department of Corrections has agreed to pay over $45,000 in damages to a female employee who allegedly was forced from her job by state correctional officials who sexually harassed her, the Justice Department announced. In a complaint, filed together with the agreement, the Justice Department alleged that a high ranking official and another male officer of the Norton Correctional Facility subjected Bridgitt A. Otter to inappropriate touching, crude and lewd jokes and comments, sexual innuendoes, and numerous propositions between 1989 and 1991. Although Otter allegedly reported the sexual harassment to the warden and another prison official in April 1991, the officials failed to thoroughly investigate the complaint or to discipline the alleged harassers, according to the complaint. Only after Otter was forced to resign from her position in August 1991 due to the ongoing harassment, were the two alleged harassers disciplined and demoted. "We are committed to ensuring that the American workplace is free of discrimination, and that all individuals are given the opportunity to work in a respectful environment," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "When a public employer allows the sexual harassment of one of its employees or fails to act to end such harassment, the Justice Department will take action." The agreement, approved yesterday by the U.S. District Court in Topeka, requires the state to pay Otter $43,667.28 in backpay and $3,000.00 for her private attorney's fees and to offer Otter reinstatement to her position as a secretary, with remedial seniority. It also prohibits the state and the Department of Corrections from engaging in sex discrimination and requires the Department of Corrections to continue its annual sexual harassment training and document all future sexual harassment complaints. Following her resignation, Otter informed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that she had been sexually harassed. The EEOC investigated the case and concluded there was reasonable cause to believe the state had discriminated against her on the basis of gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It determined that the state and the Department of Corrections failed to take prompt and appropriate action to end the harassment. In November 1993, the EEOC referred the matter to the Justice Department, which investigated the matter further and reached a similar finding. # # # 95-017