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Sex Discrimination Lawsuits in Law Enforcement: A Case Study of Thirteen Female Officers Who Sued Their Agencies

NCJ Number
Women and Criminal Justice Volume: 18 Issue: 4 Dated: 2007 Pages: 63-103
Kimberly A. Lonsway; Angela M. Alipio
Date Published
41 pages
This study examined the experiences of women who sued their law enforcement agencies for sexual harassment or another form of sex discrimination.
Findings reveal information about the types of sex discrimination that women experience within law enforcement, and their motivations for filing a lawsuit. Women experienced mistreatment ranging from generalized incivility, to gender harassment, to more classic examples of sexual-harassment. Various forms of sex discrimination were experienced, including: being passed over for promotion, unfairly disciplined, and even terminated. As many as four women experienced forceful attempts to engage in sex. Five women were physically threatened both before and after filing suit; they filed suits only after making a formal or informal complaint. Once the women complained, the retaliation they described experiencing was wide-ranging including social isolation, negative job consequences, vandalism to their property, and even more serious behaviors such as death threats and failure to provide backup in emergency situations. Often times, the mistreatment that women experienced became subtle and nuanced after they formally complained; supervisors and coworkers abandoned blatantly sexual abuses in favor of more ambiguous behaviors, such as ignoring the women, spreading false rumors or lies, and refusing to work with them. This retaliation sometimes extended to family, especially when they worked for the same law enforcement agency. Almost half of the women indicated that they had left the agencies they had sued; most left the field of law enforcement entirely. Data were collected from 13 women who sued their law enforcement agencies for sexual harassment or another form of sex discrimination. Tables, notes, references