Horseplay or sexual harassment: Discipline and due process in the Michigan Department of Corrections

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Political Science

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Journal of Public Affairs Education


Maynard Wiertalla is a Corrections Shift Supervisor 12 (Lieutenant) for the Michigan Department of Corrections DOC). He is accused of sexually harassing a male subordinate, who alleged that Lt. Wiertalla touched him inappropriately more than 300 times over 12 years. The DOC interviewed the subordinate and staff members as part of its investigation, revealing that the inappropriate physical contact took the predominant form of prodding and poking with fingers in the ribs or stomach, or grabbing of the upper thigh or crotch area, often by surprise. Lt. Wiertalla admitted to what was described. Witnesses characterized the physical touching as horseplay rather than sexual harassment. This case explores how the DOC disciplined Lt. Wiertalla and defended its disciplinary action on appeal to the Employment Relations Board of the Michigan Civil Service Commission. The case is useful for raising questions about sexual harassment, authority, grievance procedures, due process and organizational justice.

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