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Appeals court rules in plaintiffs' favor in harassment case

Plaintiffs in litigation that had already been dismissed get a second chance to bring legal action against a correction agency in Florida with contracts with the Justice Department.

The suit alleges that male employees of Geo Group, based in Florida, harassed their female co-workers and subjected them to sexually explicit behavior.

An attorney general's office in another state expressed apparent pleasure that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal had ruled in plaintiff's favor. The legal action sprung from allegations in 2010 to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that a numerous women were sexually molested on the job at a prison facility.

One plaintiff alleged that male co-workers requested that she and other female employees perform sexual acts on them, as well as subjecting them to other humiliating and harassing actions.

Initially, a district court ruled in the defendant's favor, concluding that the suit was never properly conciliated so that it could be resolved, along with other dismissals.

But a higher court completely overturned the lower court's rulings, including the dismissals of multiple male defendants. The appeals court judge also ruled that the "totality of the evidence" was sufficient to prove that a hostile work environment existed.

Claims of sexual harassment are not always easy to prove and can often be interpreted different ways by the courts. When truly egregious events take place with open discrimination and harassment, it is important for the victims to fight back.

This case illustrates that this type of litigation is often a marathon and not a sprint, and that plaintiffs have to be tenacious enough to see their cases through to the finish.

Source: Findlaw, "Sexual Harassment Claims Against Prison Co. Will Go Forward," Jonathan R. Tung, Esq, March 16, 2016

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