Government

State pays Hiawatha woman $100K to settle Department of Correctional Services sexual harassment claims

Harassment, gender discrimination payouts this year total nearly $7 million statewide

A “high risk” unit car belonging to the 6th Judicial District Correctional Services. High risk officers try to locate work release inmates who don’t voluntarily return to custody.
A “high risk” unit car belonging to the 6th Judicial District Correctional Services. High risk officers try to locate work release inmates who don’t voluntarily return to custody.

The state has agreed to pay a Hiawatha woman $100,000 to settle a sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuit against the 6th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services.

Courtney Eggers, a residential officer at the Gerald R. Hinzman Center in Cedar Rapids, will receive $59,000 of the settlement approved Monday by the Iowa Appeals Board, while her attorneys will get nearly $41,000.

The department also will return to Eggers 309 hours of sick leave and 19 hours of vacation as part of the settlement that acknowledges no guilt on the part of the agency that handles probation and parole in Linn, Johnson, Jones, Iowa, Benton and Tama counties.

Eggers sued the department and its leaders in February 2018, claiming her supervisor, Damon Robinson, made sexual comments to her, including asking if she had nude photos on her phone and telling her he was having wet dreams at night.

Other male district employees said Eggers had long legs.

When Eggers asked in 2017 to be transferred to an open position in another office, Director Bruce Vander Sanden denied the request, saying it was outside the scope of the Family Medical Leave Act, according to the lawsuit filed in Polk County.

An internal investigation of her complaints determined they were not substantiated, the suit stated.

Iowa already has paid out nearly $7 million in settlements this year for sexual harassment and gender discrimination allegations.

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In February, the State Appeal Board approved $4.15 million to settle allegations from two women that they were sexually harassed on the job by the former director of the Iowa Finance Authority, David Jamison. Beth Mahaffey, former business development director for the authority, received $2.35 million, while Ashley Jared, communications director for the authority, got $1.8 million.

The state in March signed off on a $2.35 million settlement for Kristine Sink, a former Iowa State Penitentiary correctional officer who said officials discriminated against her after she complained about inmates being allowed to watch violent and sexually explicit movies.

Elyn Fritz-Waters, a former Iowa State University employee, received a $27,500 settlement last month after she was denied transgender care through the school’s health insurance, The Gazette reported.

• Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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