A lawsuit brought by a female prison guard at the Maine State Prison and the Bolduc Correctional Facility, both in Warren, against the Department of Corrections has been settled.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor by Autumn Dinsmore of Rockland last July, alleged that the Department of Corrections discriminated against her on basis of sex and sexual orientation and participated in harassment and retaliation against her.

The state reached a mutual agreement to settle the suit in a May 9 filing, according to the Courier-Gazette. However, the terms of the agreement had not been publicized as of Friday, May 13.

In the suit, Dinsmore sought unspecified damages and a change in the culture within the department, where she is one of a very few female correctional officers, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit was filed after the Maine Human Rights Commission in January 2021 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June 2021 found that the Department of Corrections engaged in unlawful sex discrimination and created a sex-based hostile work environment.

The Maine Human Rights Commission investigator’s report concluded that the department “knew or should have known about the harassment” Dinsmore was subjected to “and did nothing to stop it; instead, [the department] contributed to the hostile environment by disciplining [Dinsmore] more harshly than her male coworkers.”

The lawsuit alleged that the environment at the prison and prison farm is hostile to female correctional officers. Male officers and supervisors allegedly told Dinsmore and other female officers that women should not work at the prison.

Dinsmore was subjected to extra scrutiny, suspicion and unwarranted discipline because of the stereotype that female correctional officers are romantically interested in the men incarcerated at the prison, the complaint said. At the same time, male officers allegedly made inappropriate sexual advances and sent sexual photos to Dinsmore, and they openly discussed trying to have sex with female officers without consequences.

Even though Dinsmore, who is gay, rebuffed these advances by her male coworkers, her sexual orientation was repeatedly questioned in the workplace, the lawsuit alleged. One of her supervisors told her that she just hadn’t “found a real man” yet, and another supervisor told her male coworker on several occasions that he should try to sleep with her to “flip” her sexual orientation.

In addition, her supervisor and other officers openly used homophobic slurs and made homophobic jokes in Dinsmore’s presence, the complaint said.

 


Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.