Plaintiff Tom Nowacki is a male Corrections Officer employed by Defendant State of Michigan Department of Corrections at its Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility (“WHV”), the only prison in Michigan that houses female prisoners. His classification is E-9 and he represents a class of over 80 other E-9 WHV male Corrections Officers.
The Department of Corrections has established certain “female-only” Corrections Officer positions at WHV, claiming that the designation of "female-only" is a “bona fide occupational qualification” (“BFOQ”) that shields Defendant from liability. However, the “female-only” requirement for certain Corrections Officer positions is neither reasonable nor necessary to the normal operation of Defendant’s prison.
The BFOQ denies male WHV Corrections Officers employment opportunities, including assignments and overtime, based on their gender and thus violates the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, MCL 37.2101 et seq., which prohibits such discrimination in employment. The BFOQ also harms female Corrections Officers, which prompted some female WHV Corrections Officers to file charges against the Deparment of Corrections with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC held that the Department of Corrections has been “using too broad of an application of the BFOQ…” Read the EEOC's opinion here.
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