Local News

Female Workers Claim Sexual Harassment at Central Prison

Posted May 6, 1999

— Two female officers inside ofCentral Prisonsay they were sexually harassed on the job. The state agreed. Now the women claim they are being treated even worse by co-workers.

At Central Prison about a quarter of the correctional officers are women. Several that WRAL spoke with say sexual harassment is a big problem and that many women are afraid to speak out because they fear retaliation.

"I wanted to keep my job, so only when it became unbearable did I complain," says Elaine Jackson, a former correctional officer.

Jackson says she was sexually harassed by a superior at Central Prison.

"Mostly verbal sexual comments, very blatant embarrassing, humiliating comments by a superior officer," says Jackson.

Correctional Officer LaVonda Armstrong claims she was also a victim.

"Once you write an officer up for sexual harassment, you're a big troublemaker," she says.

The state investigated both cases and found inappropriate behavior. But the women say more harassment followed.

"They don't want women there, they want you to leave," says Jackson.

TheDepartment of Correctionsays there are only a handful of sexual harassment complaints at Central Prison every year. All are investigated.

"Our job is to determine whether or not the complaint has merit, but at the same time you have people being accused, their career also is on the line," says EEO Manager Alfonza Fullwood.

"I don't think this environment is made for every woman. It's a real tough job," says Barbara Hoffner.

A 15-year veteran, Hoffman is the only female lieutenant at Central Prison. She believes women are treated fairly here.

"I think that they're treated the same way that the males are. It's the way women perceive things. We take a lot of things personal that males never do," says Hoffner.

These women say they are not alone.

"Many other women officers have left there that can't take the harassment, I'm standing up for them as well. I'm not going through it," says Armstrong.

Two weeks ago, Elaine Jackson quit her job after six years with the Department of Correction. LaVonda Armstrong is still employed at Central Prison.

WRAL has spoken with three other women who say they too have been harassed. The Department of Correction encourages anyone with these concerns to make a formal complaint.

Harassment claims can be based on race, sex, national origin or religion.

Last year, theEqual Employment Opportunity Commissioninvestigated more than 100,000 claims. A quarter of those were resolved within the company where the harassment took place. Surprisingly, the EEOC found no reasonable cause in 61 percent of the claims.


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