Judge OKs moving ahead with Alabama sheriff’s $2M settlement of sexual harassment lawsuit
The Associated Press
MOBILE (AP) — A federal judge has granted permission for the Justice Department and an Alabama sheriff’s office to move forward with a $2 million settlement of a lawsuit claiming sheriff’s officials ignored female jailers who reported sexual harassment by male prisoners.
The Justice Department sued the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office in 2021 saying female jail workers were regularly subjected to lewd comments, threats of sexual violence and male prisoners who exposed themselves. The lawsuit said then-Sheriff Sam Cochran failed to take action after a dozen employees filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Both parties announced a proposed legal settlement last month that included paying compensatory damages to women named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Other female jailers who worked in Mobile County between 2011 and April 2023 are also potentially eligible for cash payments, according to the settlement.
Eligible employees can submit comments on the settlement proposal to the judge, who will hold an Aug. 25 hearing before deciding whether to give the deal final approval.
In addition to the cash payments, the sheriff’s office also agreed to make changes at the jail to reduce sexual harassment targeting female workers, based on recommendations by a corrections expert.
The Mobile County Metro Jail holds about 1,500 inmates a day for the county and the city of Mobile. Cochran did not seek reelection as sheriff last year and retired in January. New Sheriff Paul Burch, who won election in November, had served as one of Cochran’s captains.