(CN) – The Nevada Department of Corrections discriminates against male staffers by hiring only female correctional lieutenants at a women’s prison, the 9th Circuit ruled. The hiring policy, aimed at preventing sex between inmates and guards, is based on “entirely specious gender stereotypes,” the ruling states.
“NDOC has not met its burden of showing … that all male correctional lieutenants would tolerate sexual abuse by their subordinates; that all men in the correctional lieutenant role would themselves sexually abuse inmates; or that women, by virtue of their gender, can better understand the behavior of female inmates,” Judge Marsha Berzon wrote for the three-judge panel.
The department restricted the position to women after an inspector general’s report found rampant sexual abuse at the Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Facility.
In exchange for sex, prison staff “routinely introduce[d] … contraband into the institution, including alcohol, narcotics, cosmetics [and] jewelry,” according to the report.
The report found “frequent instances” of inappropriate sexual relationships between staff and inmates, and “widespread knowledge” of long-term sexual relationships between inmates.
The findings triggered a wave of “very high profile” media coverage, which the NDOC sought to buffer by re-staffing the prison with mostly women. It also decided to hire only women for the three correctional lieutenant positions – the shift supervisors and senior employees on duty 75 percent of the time.
Male staff members sued, claiming the new hiring practices blocked them from getting promoted to correction lieutenant.
U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson sided with the NDOC, saying the policy had a minimal impact on male staffers, but the federal appeals court in San Francisco reversed.
“Disturbingly, in suggesting that all men are inherently apt to sexually abuse, or condone sexual abuse of, female inmates, NDOC relies on entirely specious gender stereotypes,” Berzon wrote.
“As NDOC’s correctional lieutenant restriction denied promotional opportunities on the basis of sex and was neither ‘de minimis’ nor ‘reasonably necessary to the normal operation’ of (the prison), it violated Title VII,” she concluded.