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Former deputy's sexual harassment suit settled for $1.2 million

Clay County, Missouri officials have agreed to pay $1.2 million to a former sheriff's deputy who claimed she was subjected to persistent and unwanted sexual advances from her six male co-workers. She sued for sexual harassment after her complaints that a male deputy texted her a photo of his genitals were dismissed and resulted in her being given a written reprimand.

The former deputy alleged that the sheriff's office fostered an atmosphere in which she was frequently degraded, belittled and humiliated. This constituted a hostile work environment that made her feel terrified that her other officers intended to rape her, according to the lawsuit. One deputy was alleged to have referred to her with a sexually derogatory name and grabbed her posterior, and another was accused of repeatedly asking the female deputy to meet him after work for sex.She alleged that the behavior worsened from her start at the office in late 2010 until her resignation in 2012. She then registered a complaint with the Missouri Human Rights Commission.

After learning of the lawsuit, the sheriff's office conducted an internal investigation of the incident. This led to several deputies being fired and others disciplined as a result, county officials said. The new sheriff has made training available to teach employees about proper workplace behavior, a legal counsel for the sheriff's office said.

Sexual harassment in Missouri can range from being subjected to sexual innuendo to being forced to view sexually explicit materials in the workplace. Any unwelcome sexual behavior from co-workers may be considered sexual harassment, but a lawyer experienced in fighting for workers' rights in a hostile working environment may be able to help clients judge whether further legal action should be pursued.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Former deputy settles $1.2 million in Clay County harassment suit ", Glenn E. Rice, September 13, 2013

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