Story at a glance

  • A Washington, D.C., correctional officer on Wednesday sued the city’s government and Department of Corrections for creating a hostile work environment based on his sexual identity.
  • The officer said he was harassed, intimidated and threatened by his colleagues, as well as inmates, for being gay.
  • The suit, filed on behalf of the officer, Deon Jones, by the ACLU of D.C. and the law firm WilmerHale LLP, claims the District and the Department violated the D.C. Human Rights Act.

A corrections officer in Washington, D.C., is suing the city’s government, four D.C. Department of Corrections supervisors and one coworker for creating a hostile work environment based on his identity as a gay man.

The corrections officer, Sgt. Deon Jones, a 24-year veteran of the D.C. DOC, endured years of verbal harassment and intimidation by fellow officers and supervisors, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday on his behalf by the ACLU of the District of Columbia and the law firm WilmerHale LLP. The lawsuit further states that Jones’ colleagues failed to respond when Jones was threatened with physical violence and even death by incarcerated individuals, who also exposed themselves to him and called him gay slurs.

“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,” Jones said in an ACLU news release. “I’ve been threatened and bullied and received so much harsh treatment. All of this, because I’m gay.”

Jones reportedly told his superiors, including defendants Lt. Delron Faison, Cpt. Laretta Johnson, Warden Lennard Johnson and Deputy Warden Kathleen Landerkin, about the harassment, but was ignored. He also sent complaints to DOC Director Quincy Booth and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser without success.

The DOC and Mayor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


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Jones said he suffered retaliation from reporting his colleagues’ abuse, and supervisors refused to help him with hostile inmates and denied his requests for accommodations based on his diabetes, major depressive disorder, and PTSD despite making similar accommodations for other department employees. He was also required to work in a unit with inmates who had tested positive for COVID-19 despite being at high risk of severe illness or death because of his underlying medical conditions.

Jones’ experiences “reveal DOC’s shameless culture of indifference to human suffering and abuse both of the people it employs and the people it incarcerates,” Scott Michelman, the legal director of the ACLU of D.C. said in a statement. “Under Director Quincy Booth’s leadership, the environment at DOC is toxic from top to bottom.”

The ACLU of D.C. said it was suing the District and DOC staff under the D.C. Human Rights Act, which makes discrimination based on nearly two dozen traits, including sexual orientation and disability, illegal. The suit is seeking damages in an amount that will be determined by a jury.

The ACLU of D.C. in May filed another lawsuit against the DOC on behalf of Sunday Hinton, a transgender woman who was housed in the men’s unit at the D.C. jail.

Both cases “show a practice by DOC officials of actively discriminating against LGTBQ people who work and reside in the D.C. jail,” the organization said.


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Published on Nov 18, 2021