Updated:SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. —
More than 360 women have brought forth allegations of a cover-up at Coleman Federal Prison in Sumter County.
The women who work at Coleman were granted class-action status in their lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice.
They said they have been subjected to harassment for years and management won't help them.
Paperwork shows managers asked some of the women to destroy documents outlining the harassment.
Even the Department of Justice agrees many complaints were ignored.
They were so fed up with years of alleged sexual harassment by inmates, they sued.
In an unusual move, a federal judge just granted a powerful class-action status to them.
Joe Rojas is president of the union, Local 506, which represents the women who work at the Coleman Federal Prison.
"It's just a toxic environment," said Rojas.
Rojas said the female staff are law enforcement officers and did not enter that environment just to give up their rights.
Court papers say the environment includes crude comments by male inmates, sexual harassment, gropings and worse.
The lawsuit claims management swept the complaints under the rug.
One woman said managers threw away incident reports and coerced women into writing incident reports for lesser offenses.
The women acknowledge working in a prison is expected to be difficult, but are disturbed at the complete inaction by higher-ups.
"The overall outcome is to seek change. They need to change policy. They need to hold these inmates accountable," Rojas said.
Many of the women said they've worked at other prisons and jails in Florida, and this kind of behavior was never tolerated.