State News

Lesbian Prison Employees Called Slurs on the Job in Michigan for Years, Suit Says

March 09, 2020, 3:00 PM

A lesbian couple were called “dykes” on the job for years by fellow employees at Michigan Department of Corrections. When the women attempted to complain to higher-ups, they say they were threatened. They sued Monday in Wayne County Circuit Court, WWJ reports.

Loretta Smith is an employee at Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer. She and Michelle Wood filed a class action lawsuit against MDOC. Wood worked at the facility for more than 25 years until harassment drove her to retire, the suit alleges.

"Ms. Wood was followed and spied on by a known LGBTQ hater and harassed so bad she was eventually driven out of the department."

Employees routinely taunted Wood about her orientation, calling her “f*****t” and “carpet muncher.” One reportedly said: “Stanley Steamer has nothing on you.”

Attempts to report the actions backfired. Her partner of 17 years, Smith, was moved to a midnight shift, the court filing alleges. Additionally, officials made up a story about Wood, according to the case.

"The MDOC even went so far as to accuse Wood, who was known by all to be a lesbian, of having sex with a male prisoner in an attempt to get her fired.”

Although the accusation was eventually found to be untrue, corrections officials used “selective enforcement” to punish Wood, she told the Detroit Free Press. She was disciplined for carrying an eyeglass case into work and walking prison dogs, she said.

The Freep contacted prison system spokesman Chris Gautz, who declined to comment on the suit but said:

"The MDOC takes allegations of discrimination in the workplace, no matter what type — race, sex, orientation, identity — seriously and investigates such claims as soon as they become known to the department.

"Also, retaliation is not tolerated in this department and all claims of such are investigated with the utmost seriousness."

Civil rights attorney Jonathan Marko of Detroit represents the couple. Marko made headlines last year after he successfully sued the MDOC for $11.3 million in a racial discrimination case, WXYZ reported.

Read more:  WWJ

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