Virginia prison agency discriminated against female employee in tampon case, jury rules
A jury found Monday that the Virginia Department of Corrections discriminated against a former employee who was fired after a body scanner detected a tampon she was wearing and officials suspected she was carrying contraband into the prison.
The jury, which heard the case in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, awarded the former employee, dental hygienist Joyce Flores, $85,000 in damages. Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon will consider additional damages for back pay and attorney fees at a later date.
In a statement issued after the verdict by Butler Curwood, PLC, the firm that represented Flores in the case, attorney Paul Falabella said that “no one should be terminated from work for using a tampon.”
VDOC spokesperson Benjamin Jarvela said the agency had “no comment at this time.”
The case stems from a July 17, 2019 incident when Flores first entered the Augusta Correctional Center for the day’s work wearing what she described as a heavily saturated tampon after a two-hour commute. While Flores initially cleared security, she later removed the tampon and temporarily replaced it with tissue paper after realizing she had forgotten a replacement.
Shortly after inserting the tissue paper, Flores was asked to go through the security checkpoint again after officials flagged what they said were suspicious images on the earlier body scan that could be contraband. Questioned on why the two scans looked different, Flores offered to demonstrate to female security officers that she was menstruating and then inserted another tampon to go through the scanner a third time.
Neither questioning of Flores nor K9 searches of the facility’s medical unit and dental area turned up any contraband.
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