SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court is scheduled next week to take up a lawsuit over a former San Francisco sheriff’s decision to remove male deputies from female housing units at the county’s jail, a newspaper reported.
San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey made the decision in 2006 in response to inmate complaints of sexual misconduct. More than two dozen male and female deputies have since sued the city, saying it is discriminatory.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to consider the case next Wednesday.
In written arguments to the 9th Circuit, attorneys for the deputies say female deputies’ jobs have become harder since the policy went into effect because female inmates “have a greater propensity for being argumentative, disagreeable, vocal, challenging and more openly hostile than male inmates.”
They say male deputies have lost wages and overtime and been stigmatized as sexual predators. Additionally, they contend that no sexual misconduct claim made by a female inmate against a male deputy was sustained in the 16 years before the sheriff’s policy change.
City attorneys dispute that, saying that though no one was criminally charged, three deputies resigned and two others were suspended.
“Cases that resulted in resignation and cases in which discipline was meted out are substantiated allegations,” Gabriel Zitrin, spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, told the Chronicle.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston upheld Hennessey’s policy in 2010, arguing that courts have required judicial restraint in decisions made by corrections officials.
The policy remains in effect under current Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.