Court upholds award for harassed guard

April 15, 2008 1:06:15 PM PDT
A jury award of $600,000 has been upheld by a federal appeals court in San Francisco in the case of a former prison guard who claimed that she was harassed by male inmates and that prison officials failed to stop it. Deanna Freitag, a former correctional officer at the maximum-security Pelican Bay State Prison in Del Norte County, claimed she was harassed by exhibitionist masturbation by inmates, often accompanied by verbal taunts and crude remarks. She alleged she was unfairly retaliated against and fired in 2000 because of her complaints. She sued the state Department of Corrections for allowing a hostile work environment. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a ruling issued on Friday upheld a $600,000 award granted to Freitag by a federal jury in San Francisco in 2003. The decision was the second time the appeals court ruled in the case. In the first ruling, issued in 2006, the panel said the state agency could be liable for a hostile work environment created by inmates if officials knew of the offensive conduct, even though the inmates weren't employees. In Friday's ruling, the court affirmed the amount of the award. Pamela Price, a lawyer for Freitag, said the former guard is now unemployed and is living in Oregon. Prison officials were not immediately available for comment on whether they plan a further appeal.