SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Five current and former female New Mexico Corrections Department employees initiated a lawsuit this week against prison officials over claims of sexual harassment by their male colleagues.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs filed a complaint, a precursor to a lawsuit, in state District Court in Santa Fe. The complaint names the department, Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel as well as several officials and a dozen past and current employees.
In the 104-page complaint, workers at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility near Los Lunas say supervisors failed to act when male employees allegedly harassed them. They say the harassment included groping, throwing rocks and obscene name-calling, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (http://bit.ly/1Bc4gkS).
"Within its walls, female corrections officers are considered lesser than those who are male, subject to unthinkable and constant sexually based violence and harassment," attorneys wrote in the complaint.
According to the plaintiffs, written complaints resulted in few or no consequences and led to retaliation at times.
The female employees are seeking actual and punitive damages as well as attorney's fees.
Department spokeswoman Alex Tomlin said Saturday officials had not seen the complaint. But she said the Corrections Department takes the security of all its employees very seriously.
Five Corrections employees, including Central Facility Warden Robert Stewart, were put on administrative leave as soon as authorities were notified of the allegations. An internal investigation has also been launched to see if any complaints of sexual harassment were ignored at the prison.
"We're going to do what's right and make sure that we cooperate, but make sure we also support our staff and they feel safe," Tomlin said.
Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com