The Department of Corrections (DOC) solicited an opinion from the Human Rights Commission (HRC) on whether gender-based hiring criteria could be used for personnel at a specific correctional facility. In other words, the DOC wanted to know whether it would be cool with everyone if it didn’t hire men to do the pat-downs and shower checks at the women’s prisons.
This opinion says more about the underlying facts of a current controversy than it does about the law. The holding and analysis are straightforward. Under the Washington Administrative Procedure Act, a justiciable controversy does not arise before “final agency action.” Prior cases had established that interpretive letters like the one here, do not constitute final agency action. Open and shut, as one might say.
Nonetheless, the opinion letter opens up interesting future questions. The HRC opined that gender may be a bona fide occupational qualification, under certain circumstances, like preventing prison guards from getting free looks at lady parts, and not subject to the Washington Law Against Discrimination. When the DOC finally gets around to issuing its policies and guidelines, then the Teamsters can sue again.
Jimmy Hoffa is rolling over under the end zone at Giants Stadium.