A Washington D.C. corrections officer has sued D.C. government, four D.C. Department of Corrections supervisors, and a co-worker over what the officer claims have been years of harassment, discrimination, and intimidation for being a gay man.
The ACLU of the District of Columbia and the law firm WilmerHale filed the lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday on behalf of Deon Jones, a 24-year veteran of the D.C. DOC.
According to a release from the ACLU of D.C., Jones has been called antigay slurs on the job and verbally harassed due to his sexuality. The department also failed to prevent the harassment and to respond to threats made by those incarcerated.
Officers and incarcerated individuals constantly targeted Jones, calling him “sissy,” “dick eater,” and other slurs, according to the suit. Fellow officers told Jones they “hate working with faggots.”
The suit also claims that Jones was not provided the necessary backup when incarcerated indivdiuals would threaten him. During one such situation, one detainee said they would sexually assault Jones and then “cut his throat.”
Jones has submitted complaints to DOC supervisors and officials as well as to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. The suit says nothing was done to end the antigay harassment.
The corrections officer says he has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a major depressive disorder.
“I have been tormented and abused so badly, my life has changed. The discrimination and hostile work environment I faced has been devastating. I have suffered depression, PTSD, and anxiety attacks. In spite of it all, I continue to do my job and lift my head up,” Jones said in the release. “I have faced abuse from every direction: managers, co-workers, inmates. I have feared for my safety and cried out for help to the Director and Mayor but nothing was ever done. I’ve been threatened and bullied and received so much harsh treatment. All of this, because I’m gay.”
The suit says the DOC retaliated against Jones' complaints. In one example, Jones had asked to be assigned to telework during the COVID-19 pandemic due to underlying medical issues. The department instead assigned him to a unit with individuals who had tested positive for the illness.
“No one should live in constant fear of their workplace, and no one should be subjected to abuse and hostility based on who they are or whom they love,” said Scott Michelman, legal director of the ACLU of D.C. “Sgt. Jones’s horrific experiences with recent reports of appalling conditions for incarcerated persons including with respect to COVID precautions, reveal DOC’s shameless culture of indifference to human suffering and abuse both of the people it employs and the people it incarcerates.”
Wednesday’s court filing claims violations of the D.C. Human Rights Act for sexual orientation discrimination, hostile work environment, unlawful retaliation, and disability discrimination, among others. The suit is seeking damages and an injunction preventing the DOC from continuing anti-LGBTQ+ conduct.
The ACLU of D.C. notes that it is also pursuing a lawsuit for Sunday Hinton, a trans woman who was housed in a men’s unit in the D.C. jail. The organization said that there is a practice of DOC officials discriminating against LGBTQ+ people — those working and residing in the jail.