Beckford and 13 other female former employees worked at Martin Correctional Institution (located in Indiantown, Florida) between 1999 and 2002. Most of the women worked as nurses, one worked as a physician, and another worked as a classification officer. Each of the female employees worked in the "close management" housing dorms at Martin. The nurses entered the close management dorms each day to pass medication to
inmates, answer sick calls, and respond to medical emergencies. The other former employees entered the close management dorms at least several times each week to perform similar duties or to discuss administrative matters with inmates. While the women were employed at Martin, the close management inmates abused staff, especially female staff. When the inmates saw female employees approaching one of the close management dorms, the inmates called the employees names through the exterior cell windows and explained, in graphic detail, the sexual liberties that the inmates would take with the employees, if given the opportunity. The inmates often exposed themselves and masturbated directly at staff. The female employees complained to prison management, including the warden, about the conduct of the inmates, and they filed numerous disciplinary reports regarding inmate harassment. The female employees alleged that management ordinarily ignored these complaints. Martin maintained a sexual harassment policy, but the female employees understood the policy to cover only harassment by other employees and outside vendors who transacted with the Department, not inmates.
In 2001, the former employees and others sued the Department in a Florida court. The female employees alleged that the Department violated state law by creating a hostile work environment and successfully sought class certification. In March 2006, the employees amended their complaint to add a federal claim under Title VII. The Department then removed the case to the Northern District of Florida, which later decertified the class and transferred the claims to the Southern District of Florida.
The plaintiffs' complaint against the Florida Department of Corrections was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Pierce Division, on November 13, 2006. The complaint - filed under the Florida Human Rights Act of 1977, the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - sought injunctive, declaratory and equitable relief and damages, alleging that the Department maintained a policy and pattern and practice of gender-based discriminatory treatment. The discovery process was vigorously contested by both parties, as Defendant repeatedly filed Motions for Extension of Time and Motions for Protective Orders while Plaintiff filed, and was granted, a Motion to Compel. On May 8, 2008, the Court issued an Order granting in part and denying in part a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Defendant. The only part of the Motion which was granted asserted that the Plaintiffs lacked standing to seek injunctive relief.
The case was tried before a jury and, on May 13, 2008, the jury returned a verdict entering judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs. The Court - Judge Jose E. Martinez - entered judgment against the Defendants on May 15, awarding each Plaintiff damages in the amount of $45,000. On May 30, Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law or in the Alternative New Trial; this Motion was denied by the Court on February 23, 2009. The Defendant then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which ultimately affirmed and upheld the judgment of the District Court on May 7, 2010.Robert Routh - 07/26/2010