Deon Jones, a gay man, has been employed by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) for more than two decades, where he has endured pervasive acts of harassment based on his sexual orientation. He has been called demeaning slurs and has faced threats of violence and false accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior with inmates. On multiple occasions, and at times in view of senior officers at DOC, Sgt. Jones was called “faggot, “old faggot,” “faggot mess,” and “dick eater” among other slurs; he was told by fellow officers at DOC that they “don’t like faggots or sissies” and “hate working with faggots.” On one occasion, Sgt. Jones was falsely accused of bringing drugs and food into the jail and of having sexual intercourse with inmates. On several occasions, officers have put Sgt. Jones’s safety at risk by refusing to answer his calls for assistance over the internal radio system when he was responding to inmates or attempting to execute his duties. Sgt. Jones’s supervisors failed to assist Sgt. Jones after inmates placed their genitals on display, masturbated toward Sgt. Jones, and called him gay slurs, like “fuck you, faggot” and “eat my faggot ass out.” During one particularly frightening incident, an inmate threatened to sexually assault Sgt. Jones and “cut his throat.” The harassment suffered by Sgt. Jones was so severe that he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) and Major Depressive Disorder. He has suffered more than 15 panic attacks in direct response to the various incidents involving DOC staff and inmates.
Sgt. Jones repeatedly reported the harassment to his superiors, including Defendants Lt. Delron Faison, Cpt. Laretta Johnson, Warden Lennard Johnson, and Deputy Warden Kathleen Landerkin. Rather than taking action, however, Defendants ignored Sgt. Jones’s reports of harassment by DOC staff and inmates and allowed Sgt. Jones to be repeatedly exposed to severe harassment based on his sexual orientation. Sgt. Jones escalated his complaints to the highest levels in D.C. government, including to DOC Director Quincy Booth and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Still nothing was done to end the abuse.
Instead, Sgt. Jones suffered retaliation in the form of DOC supervisors’ refusal to assist Sgt. Jones with hostile inmates and a continued hostile work environment resulting from his many complaints and reports of abuse.
Additionally, Sgt. Jones has uncontrolled diabetes, which puts him at a high-risk for complications from COVID-19, in addition to suffering from PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder. Sgt. Jones made numerous requests for reasonable accommodations based on these disabilities, and Defendants denied him any accommodation—even while making similar accommodations to other DOC employees.
Together with the law firm Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr, in November 2021 we sued the District and several of Sgt. Jones’s supervisors and a coworker under the D.C. Human Rights Act for discrimination; the creation of a hostile work environment; the District’s retaliation against Sgt. Jones when he opposed or reported unlawful employment practices; and the District’s failure to make reasonable accommodations for Sgt. Jones’s disabilities (among other claims).