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Former Michigan corrections officer sues over discrimination

September 23, 2018

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) — A former Michigan corrections officer has sued the state Department of Corrections, alleging the agency discriminated against her based on sexual orientation and race.

Ashley Menchaca, who is Hispanic and gay, worked at Woodland Center Facility in Whitmore Lake from January 2016 until she resigned May 2017, the Livingston Daily Press & Argus reported . The original complaint was filed in March and then amended in June to list the corrections department as the sole defendant.

The lawsuit alleges that Menchaca’s supervisors restricted her bathroom access, disciplined her for using the bathroom, threatened her with discipline if she continued to work at the facility, and spread rumors that she’d left the country.

Menchaca also alleged that her supervisors made her use a hard stool at her work station, but would replace the stool with a cushioned chair when others were assigned to the station.

MDOC’s written response to the complaint denies any discriminatory conduct or practices. The agency is seeking the complaint’s dismissal because it “does not fit within the prohibitions of the law,” the agency said.

The lawsuit says the alleged actions violate the federal anti-discrimination statute. Michigan doesn’t currently recognize sexual orientation as a protected class.

“To us, it is important because, beyond the fact that what happened to Ashley, employers are technically allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation,” Andrew Laurila, one of Menchaca’s lawyers, said.

MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz declined to comment on the case specifically, but said employees attend anti-discrimination workshops and officials have made anti-discrimination a priority.

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Information from: Livingston Daily Press & Argus, http://www.livingstondaily.com

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