A federal investigation is underway into allegations that the Nebraska State Patrol required its female troopers to undergo medically unnecessary vaginal and anal exams in order to be hired for service.
State Trooper Brienne Splittgerber has accused two former supervisors, as well as the state of Nebraska and the patrol itself, of "creating a hostile work environment for women," according to The Associated Press.
"Subjecting the plaintiff and other female trooper candidates to a medically unnecessary and sexually invasive procedure is outrageous conduct which goes beyond all possible bounds of decency and is utterly intolerable in a civilized community," states the lawsuit.
Splittgerber and other female troopers were under the impression that the pelvic exam was conducted in order to check for hernias, but they noticed that a similar procedure was not required of their male co-workers. The plaintiff underwent the exam in 2014 as part of the hiring process and was told to "lie on her back on an exam table, bend her knees and put her feet flat on the table and open her knees exposing her genitalia." After examining her vaginal area, the doctor checked her anus as well.
"There would be no reason to look in the genital or anal area," Dr. Karen Carlson, an OB-GYN in Nebraska, told The Associated Press. "We might have them loosen their pants, but I wouldn't think there would be any need to disrobe."
The trooper caught on to this after a conversation with her family doctor and notified patrol leadership of the intrusive exams. While they assured her that they were looking into the issue, Splittgerber watched woman after woman be forced to comply with the same alarming standards.
On Wednesday, Gov. Pete Ricketts' office announced that it is reviewing the allegations through a criminal investigation of the Nebraska State Patrol. Ricketts has taken action against the patrol recently, firing Col. Brad Rice for interfering with an internal review, and this case is another black mark on the law enforcement agency and a sign that there is need for serious reform.
Sexism in the workforce is as old as Adam and Eve, but it's gained increased attention recently as society works toward becoming more inclusive. As women take jobs in more traditionally male spaces, their male peers' reactions range from acceptance to hostility to predation. It remains disturbingly easy for men to exert power over women in the workforce in problematic ways, and lawsuits like Splittgerber's send a clear message that gender equality remains at draft one.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Wikimedia user Photo Du.de