A woman who was fired from her prison job after being accused of smuggling drugs says that the body scanner had detected her tampon.
Joyce Flores, who was working a dental hygienist at Augusta Correctional Centre in Virginia, she was interrogated for hours despite demonstrating to female guards that she was menstruating.
Ms Flores says she also invited prison guards to search her car and work area. Despite the fact that no contraband was found, she was still fired from her job.
She says that prison officials may have become suspicious because between her first and second trips though the body scanner she had added some folded toilet paper to her sanitary precautions and “the second image looked different, creating an anomaly.”
Now, after an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she has begun a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the state of Virginia.
According to allegations filed by her lawyer: “At no point did (Ms Flores) bring or attempt to bring contraband into Augusta Correctional Centre.
“Her “employment was terminated because she was a menstruating female utilising a feminine hygiene product when she arrived to work.”
The Virginia Department of Corrections filed a motion for the court to dismiss the claim, arguing that Ms Flores had not sufficiently demonstrated gender was a motivating factor in her termination.
However, on Monday (February 22) District Judge Thomas Cullen rejected their application.
The judge wrote: “But for Flores’s menstruation and use of a tampon — conditions inextricable from her sex and her child-bearing capacity — she would not have been discharged.”
In 2018, the Virginia Department of Corrections introduced a rule banning women from visiting prisons while wearing a tampon, because their new body-scanners were unable to differentiate feminine hygiene products from drugs and other contraband.
The ruling was withdrawn after a national backlash but female visitors were still barred from physical contact with inmates, seeing loved ones only through a glass partition or via video feed.
“We just can’t tell if it’s drugs or a tampon. It just shows if there’s something wrong,” explained Department of Corrections visitation manager Margie Vargo.
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