Lesbian corrections officer outed by coworker, led to rape fear: suit

A Michigan corrections officer was forced to resign after a fellow prison guard outed her as a lesbian in front of male prisoners — prompting “valid” fears of her being sexually assaulted, a lawsuit claims.

Bridget Cadena, who joined the Michigan Department of Corrections in 2014, claims she was forced to resign three years after the guard outed her while talking to a kitchen worker in front of male inmates at Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday.

The same corrections officer also referred to Cadena using a gay slur, leading to sexually threatening remarks from prisoners who were nearby, according to her lawsuit.

The case was scheduled to go to trial in Jackson County in January, but got adjourned due to the pandemic.

However, Cadena’s claims may soon be heard by a jury as trials start to resume throughout Michigan, the Free Press reported.

Bridget Cadena
Cadena’s lawsuit alleges sex discrimination under Michigan’s civil rights law.

“These comments … undermined plaintiff’s ability to perform her duties and maintain discipline and respect with the inmates,” the filing claims.

The remarks also led to Cadena having “valid increased fear of being raped” or sexually assaulted by an inmate, according to the lawsuit, which named the guard’s former employer as the lone defendant.

The former corrections officer, who now works as a closer for a mortgage lending company, said she spoke up about the harassment, but claims officials did not interview her and she thinks no serious investigation into her allegations took place.

Cadena was forced to resign in June 2017 after a doctor recommended she do so because of stress and anxiety attacks from the ensuing harassment, the lawsuit claims.

MDOC officials, meanwhile, denied the allegations in court filings, claiming a “robust” two-month probe into Cadena’s claims led to no “sufficient” evidence being found.

Bridget Cadena
Cadena’s claims may soon be heard by a jury.

Cadena’s lawsuit, filed in February 2020, alleges sex discrimination under Michigan’s civil rights law, retaliation and a hostile work environment, the Free Press reported. It seeks lost wages and emotional damages, WJBK reported earlier this month.

A judge refused to dismiss the case in December, but characterized it as “extremely tenuous” since prisoners could have found out Cadena’s sexual orientation from other sources, the Free Press reported.

Corrections officials said in a court filing that Cadena had been engaged to a female co-worker and shared her sexual orientation with fellow employees. Her attempt to blame one staffer for “any and all prison knowledge” that she’s gay is “complete conjecture,” the filing reportedly read.

Assistant Attorney General Bryan Beach said at a December hearing that “dealing with the hostile comments” from prisoners was part of a corrections officer’s job, adding that Cadena did not request a reassignment.

MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz told The Post Thursday that Cadena was not forced to resign.

Parnall Correctional Facility
Parnall Correctional Facility is the lone defendant in the lawsuit.

“This employee voluntarily resigned and was not facing any type of discipline,” Gautz said in an email. “When the employee complained it was fully investigated by the MDOC and there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations.”

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