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Eye On Boise

Former worker sues Idaho Corrections, charges gender discrimination

A former Idaho probation and parole employee is suing the state Department of Correction, charging gender discrminiation and creation of a hostile work environment after her brief relationship with a co-worker turned violent, the AP reports. The lawsuit was filed this week in U.S. District Court; click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.

Former IDOC staffer alleges gender bias in lawsuit
By TODD DVORAK, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former Idaho probation and parole employee is accusing her administrators of gender discrimination and creating a hostile work environment and emotional distress after her brief relationship with a co-worker turned violent.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday by Cynthia Fuller, a 43-year-old single mother of two, names Department of Corrections Director Brent Reinke and Henry Atencio, chief deputy of probation and parole.

Fuller, who lives in Nampa, began working for IDOC in 2004, but she quit in November 2011, months after her relationship with probation and parole officer Herbt Cruz ended amid her allegations of sexual assault.

In her civil lawsuit, Fuller said she was beaten and raped by Cruz on Aug. 30, 2011, the day she tried ending their romantic relationship. She reported the episode to Canyon County Sheriff's detectives days later and obtained a restraining order against Cruz.

No criminal charges have been filed against Cruz, who has an unlisted telephone number and could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday by The Associated Press. Cruz also resigned from IDOC last January, citing personal reasons, an agency spokesman said.

IDOC officials have not yet seen the lawsuit.

Fuller's lawsuit focuses on how IDOC administrators and her immediate supervisors responded and managed the Caldwell probation and parole office and its staff in the weeks after she claims she was assaulted.

For example, Fuller alleges she was denied a paid leave of absence after the encounter with Cruz, despite initially being told she qualified under department policy, according to the lawsuit. Instead, Fuller, seeking time away from the office to recover and seek psychological counseling, used vacation and sick time before returning to work due to financial pressure — against the advice of her physician and counselor.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit criticizes the agency for granting paid administrative leave for Cruz, who was disciplined Aug. 15 after his supervisors learned he was the subject of a separate criminal investigation.

Then in November, after Fuller returned to work, supervisors denied her request to inform staff that Cruz was supposed to avoid entering the building because he was specifically under a restraining order.

Fuller told her boss she was fearful of Cruz and that his veteran status and relationship with colleagues would ensure him easy access to the building and her office, located just inside the main entrance.

An administrator agreed to notify staff that Cruz was prohibited from the office, but not because he was the subject of a restraining order involving another employee.

"The email was insufficient to notify IDOC employees of the severity of the situation," the lawsuit states. "Ms. Fuller believed that IDOC's refusal to act placed her in significant danger."

Fuller resigned on Nov. 17, filed for unemployment but was denied the benefit. Her application was contested by IDOC.

The lawsuit accuses the agency of fostering a hostile work environment when it failed to take steps to protect Fuller. The lawsuit claims agency supervisors should have done more because they were also aware of other employee concerns about Cruz's behavior toward women.

"They failed to protect one of their own employees," said Fuller's attorney, Kass Harstad. "When a company or an employer gets a claim of harassment, they ... have an obligation to take action. The department failed to remedy this situation."

IDOC is also accused of gender discrimination in the way it handled the requests for paid leave by Fuller compared to the benefits paid to Cruz and of inflicting emotional distress.

Fuller is seeking compensatory damages and payment in lieu of being reinstated to her old job.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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