The U.S. Justice Department has signed on to a settlement that will end a sex discrimination lawsuit against the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.The consent decree, which the Summit County Council agreed to earlier this month, will resolve a challenge made by 21 female deputies who said a policy that limited them to working with women inmates took away job opportunities and cost them wages.
When the gender-based policy went into effect in January 2012, the deputies lost duties that included the booking and registering of all jail inmates as well as general jail security. Because the jail population is about 80 percent male, the female staff was relegated to just 32 of 143 positions.
The United States joined the lawsuit last summer saying the policy violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among issues it found: The practice caused female deputies to lose job assignments and shifts they had earned based on their seniority as well as the chance to bid on overtime postings. The policy was implemented by former Sheriff Drew Alexander and was stopped in July. Steve Barry took over as sheriff in January. He could not be reached late Wednesday for comment.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi, who will still need to approve the final agreement.
Summit County has agreed to only use sex-based assignments, if at all, to the limited extent that they are “reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the jail.” In such cases, the gender-biased positions must be approved by the Department of Justice.
The settlement also calls for the county to pay $400,000, which includes damages and attorney fees. The county has also agreed to provide sex discrimination training.
“Bringing an end to practices in the law enforcement community that discriminate against women is a major priority of the Justice Department and the Civil Rights Division,” said Jocelyn Samuels of the Attorney General’s office. Practices like the one Summit County had put into place “present a major hurdle to workplace equality that the Justice Department will not ignore.”