On September 21, 2011, the Teamsters Local Union, No. 117 ("Local 117") filed this lawsuit in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington on behalf of the union members who worked for the Washington Department of Corrections. The plaintiff sued the Washington State Department of Corrections ("DOC") for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. Sections 2000e, et seq. More than thirty days prior to the institution of this lawsuit, the plaintiff filed charges of unlawful discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that defendant violated Title VII. Local 117 is the exclusive certified bargaining representative of approximately 6,000 State employees employed by the DOC.
In July 2007, prior to the filing of this case, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of females inmates against DOC, alleging that certain staff had engaged in sexual misconduct ("the Jane Doe lawsuit"). The DOC responded to the Jane Doe lawsuit by conducting an investigation and hiring consultants to look at the issue. As a result of this investigation, the consultants hired by the DOC recommended increasing the number of female correctional officers in the women's correctional facilities. The consultants did not recommend decreasing the number of male correctional officers. The plaintiffs' experts in the Jane Doe case suggested that increasing the number of female correctional officers would limit the potential for sexual misconduct. Both the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, the Department of Justice, and the National Institute of Corrections Information Center recommended increasing overall staffing levels at women's correctional facilities in order to improve safety.
In May 2008, the DOC submitted a request to the Washington State Human Rights Commission ("WSHRC") to designate numerous existing correctional officer positions at several women's correctional facilities as female-only, asserting that gender is a bona fide occupational qualification ("BFOQ") for those positions. In February 2009, the WSHRC approved DOC's request to designate the requested positions as female-only, and upon receipt of those approvals, the DOC indicated to Locall 117 its intent to designate the positions as female-only and began recruiting and reassigning employees accordingly.
In this lawsuit, Local 117 alleged that DOC failed to undertake any individualized analysis of each position before designating approximately 110 positions as female-only, and they further alleged that many of these positions were improperly designated as female-only. Local 117 alleged that, as a result, male correctional officers were discriminated against, such as being forced to transfer to less desirable positions and being skipped-over on overtime opportunities. In addition, the female staff were required to work more overtime hours.
Further, following the designation of additional female-only positions, DOC employees reported that violence against staff by inmates had increased, as had violence between inmates. DOC employees believed that a lack of male staff presence in the female living units has emboldened violent offenders to act out.
Both sides moved for summary judgment. On April 8, 2013, Judge Settle granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment and found the plaintiff's motion moot. 2013 WL 1412335 (W.D. Wash. Apr. 8, 2013).
On April 19, 2013, plaintiff appealed to the Ninth Circuit. On June 12, 2015, the Ninth Circuit filed an opinion affirming the trial court's decision. 789 F.3d 979 (9th Cir. 2015). The plaintiff filed petitions for rehearing en banc and panel rehearing, but the Ninth Circuit denied these petitions on August 5, 2015. Rachel June-Graber - 10/20/2015