The New Jersey Department of Corrections has agreed to a $20.8 million settlement in a class action suit over sexual abuse and harassment of inmates in a state prison for women. The case was patterned after the hostile work environment claims commonly seen in workplace sexual harassment suits but is believed to be the first in the state to obtain relief for a hostile living environment in a corrections facility.
The settlement allocates $9.9 million to victims of sexual assault at the Edna Mahan Correctional Center for Women who previously filed claims and another $8 million to women incarcerated at the prison from 2014 to the present who were subject to the environment of abuse or suffered direct harassment or assault. The settlement also calls for corrections officers who regularly interact with inmates to begin wearing body cameras within one year of the settlement. The plaintiffs’ recovery could prompt litigators to imagine other novel ways that the legal framework for hostile work environment claims under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination could be adapted to other nonemployment contexts.
Detailed terms of the settlement were made public Thursday. The settlement was reached March 29 during a mediation session with Diane Welsh of JAMS in Philadelphia, a former U.S. magistrate judge. The settlement is subject to approval by a Superior Court judge.
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New Jersey Law Journal
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