Male guards can sue over jobs at Huron Valley women’s prison
Pittsfield Township — The Michigan appeals court Wednesday cleared the way for a class-action lawsuit by dozens of male guards who said they’ve been denied overtime and job assignments at the state’s only prison for women solely because they’re men.
The court, 3-0, affirmed the decision of a Washtenaw County judge.
The lawsuit centers on employment rules at the Huron Valley prison for women. In response to allegations of sexual abuse at other prisons, the Civil Service Commission approved job qualifications that put only women in more than 250 jobs.
“It was a knee-jerk overreaction,” said James Fett, an attorney for roughly 80 former or current male officers who claim their civil rights have been violated.
Fett said men are restricted from working in food service areas and teaching certain classes.
“It’s blatant gender discrimination,” he said.
The appeals court said officers cleared the threshold for a class-action lawsuit, under Michigan law, based on the number of plaintiffs, common issues and other factors.
“We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class,” said judges Henry Saad, Donald Owens and Kirsten Frank Kelly.
A Corrections Department spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
In 2009, the state agreed to a $100 million settlement with female inmates at other prisons in Michigan who said they were raped, groped and peeked at by male corrections officers.