WARREN — The state has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of a corrections officer who said she endured a hostile work environment both because of her gender and sexual orientation while working at the Maine State Prison and Bolduc Correctional Facility.

Magistrate Judge John Nivision noted in a May 9 filing in U.S. District Court in Bangor that he had been advised that a settlement was reached by mutual agreement in the case brought on behalf of Autumn Dinsmore in July 2021.

The lawsuit was filed six months after the Maine Human Rights Commission voted 2-1 at its January 2021 meeting that there were reasonable grounds to believe the Maine Corrections Department created a hostile work environment and treated her differently.

The lawsuit detailed how the woman was a frequent recipient of unwanted sexual overtures from male officers, including officers who sent photos of their genitalia on Snapchat, and who pressured her to send nude photos of herself in return.

The woman and other female officers also overheard male officers making inappropriate comments about having sex with female officers and talking about competing to see who could sleep with a new female officer first.

“This refusal of her male coworkers and supervisors to accept (the woman’s) sexual orientation is consistent with the workplace culture of treating women COs as sexual objects and the traditional ideology that true lesbians are unlikely to exist because women cannot resist sexual attraction to men,” the lawsuit stated.

The woman is seeking punitive damages, lost wages and civil rights training for the next two years for staff.

Terms of the settlement have not yet been released. The Maine Department of Corrections said Friday, May 13 while the matter has been resolved,  there is no written settlement yet to provide. The newspaper has requested a copy once they have been signed.

An email was also sent Thursday morning, May 12 to attorney David Webbert of Augusta who is the lead lawyer for Dinsmore. There has been no response.

“From almost the beginning of her employment she was subjected to comments from male coworkers about their low opinion of women working in the prison,” the report from Human Rights investigator Kit Thomson Crossman stated.

Dinsmore began working in the prison February, 2017. She filed the complaint with the Human Rights Commission in April, 2019. She later went to work at the Bolduc facility.

The investigator said the woman was asked if she chose the job “for a lawsuit or to fall in love.” The female corrections officer was also told by a male corrections officer that female staff at the prison had a reputation for getting in trouble with prisoners.

She was frequently ordered by a male guard to work in a pod where prisoners told her they were in love with her, even though a sergeant previously pulled her out of that pod for that reason.

“The sex-based comments were pervasive, and it appears that the attitudes of her coworkers led to Complainant being disciplined,” the investigator found.

“For example, within a week of a disagreement with three male coworkers, at least one of whom made comments disparaging women working with male prisoners, those male coworkers reported Complainant for alleged over-familiarity with a prisoner after listening in on her conversations with the prisoner.

“Respondent knew or should have known about the harassment, and did nothing to stop it; instead, Respondent contributed to the hostile environment by disciplining Complainant more harshly than her male coworkers,” according to the investigator’s findings.

The female guard was harassed by a former prisoner, according to the investigator. The guard accessed the former prisoner’s contact information in the prison’s computer system so she could contact him to tell him to stop stalking her.

The prison administration found she violated the Department of Correction’s policy for going into the computer system. She was given a two-week unpaid suspension.