Second former jail worker sues county over alleged retaliation

0

AUBURN — A former corrections officer at Androscoggin County Jail is suing the county, claiming sex discrimination and retaliation against her for her opposition to the posting of a supervisor to her shift.

Lisa Levesque said in a complaint filed in Androscoggin County Superior Court that male officers at the jail are treated differently from female officers in violation of the Maine Human Rights Act. She also complained that jail management retaliated against her because she complained about sexual harassment or sexual discrimination at the jail.

Through her attorney, Guy Loranger of Saco, she wrote that she had left her job because of the job environment, “which was so intolerable that the average person would be compelled to leave the employment.”

The mistreatment she suffered caused her “severe emotional distress” and she sought professional counseling to treat the symptoms of the distress.

Advertisement

Levesque is seeking a variety of damages, including lost wages, punitive damages and legal fees.

She said she openly opposed the transfer of Sgt. Kevin Harmon from the evening shift to the day shift, when Levesque worked.

In 2008, Harmon had been demoted, suspended for two weeks and transferred from days to evenings following an investigation into allegations he had sexually harassed corrections officer Lisa Webster, the lawsuit said.

Loranger is also Webster’s attorney. Her case is scheduled to go to trial in the summer, a clerk said.

According to Webster’s complaint, filed in 2008, Harmon made offensive comments about her, including degrading slurs about her weight and personal hygiene. She said she made her treatment known to jail managers, who failed to take action.

She claimed jail managers retaliated against her, including not allowing her to work overtime hours.

Similarly, Levesque is alleging that she was denied privileges given to other officers, such as parking and cell-phone use on the job. She says she was ordered to do extra tasks.

Levesque said she wrote a letter to Sheriff Guy Desjardins, objecting to Harmon’s transfer to day duty from nights, because Levesque worked days.

She had written a “lengthy testimonial statement” during the internal investigation into Webster’s allegations against Harmon, according to Levesque’s suit. She believed Harmon would retaliate against her for her testimony.

Levesque said she suffered an anxiety attack when she learned that Harmon would be transferred to days. She had worked for him at the jail before, along with Webster, Levesque said. She and Webster were subjected to Harmon’s verbal abuse and discrimination, Levesque said.

Since expressing her objections to Harmon’s transfer back to days, Levesque said she was told by a jail manager she could either switch to a night shift or “move on, meaning quit.”

In the end, Harmon wasn’t moved to days because his two-year nighttime probationary period wasn’t completed, but Levesque was never told about the change, she said.

A jail inmate told Levesque that he was told by her supervisor he didn’t like Levesque and “they were building a case against her.” The inmate was threatened by the supervisor that he would be sent to maximum security or transferred to another jail if he talked to Levesque, she said.

The county has 20 days to respond to the complaint after it is served notice of the suit.

An attorney for the county could not be reached for comment.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

Advertisement