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Former jail guard alleges sexist discrimination

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/6/2020 9:21:10 PM
Modified: 7/6/2020 9:21:06 PM

CLAREMONT —  A former corrections officer claims colleagues made sexist comments about her job performance and appearance while working for the Sullivan County Department of Corrections. 

And when she spoke out, the woman said, department officials ignored her complaints and retaliated against her.  

The claims are detailed in a lawsuit filed by the officer, Tori Jacques, against the Sullivan County DOC and superintendent Dave Berry in May. Jacques is suing on counts of discrimination, defamation, violating the whistleblower protection act and wrongful termination. 

Jacques, who said in the suit that she was unable to find another corrections job after leaving the jail in 2016, is asking for money in damages — though she didn’t specify how much — and for mandatory anti-discrimination training within the department. 

A call and email to Dona Feeney, the attorney representing the department, were not returned last week. When reached by email, Berry declined to comment on the lawsuit. 

In the lawsuit, Jacques said the treatment started soon after she took a job as a corrections officer at the jail in June 2016.

After she was promoted to corporal a short time later, other male staff members started gossiping about her and claiming she “had no idea what she was doing,” the suit said. 

One sergeant in particular, whose full name was not included in the lawsuit, made comments about how much he “hated” her and made inappropriate comments about her tattoos, the suit said. The same sergeant openly speculated about another staff member’s sexuality, according to the lawsuit. 

 At one point she applied to be on the jail’s Correctional Emergency Response Team but got discouraged after she heard that some male colleagues had asked “since when do we put females on C.E.R.T. anyway?”

In another incident, Jacques said she learned about a recording where some male employees at the facility were saying a woman had only been hired by the department to perform sexual acts.  

“Staff were constantly bashing and engaging in conversations that were especially derogatory towards female and gay staff members,” the lawsuit said. 

The treatment extended to at least one inmate, too, according to the lawsuit. Jacques claimed a woman who was being held in the jail said a corrections officer had discussed his genitals in front of her, making the woman uncomfortable. When Jacques tried to report the woman’s claim, it was “swept under the rug,” the lawsuit said. 

Jacques said she filed several complaints about sexism and discrimination that were not taken seriously. At one point, Berry accused her of falsifying her reports about the sergeant, the lawsuit said. 

“She left crying because she knew she reported what had to be reported but instead the findings of these incidents were not investigated,” the lawsuit said. “They had questioned her integrity and everything about herself.”

Jacques decided to quit following the accusation, and applied for a corrections job in another county, but was denied after the department spoke with Sullivan County officials, according to the lawsuit. 

“They had slandered her making it nearly impossible to obtain employment in the field she specialized in,” the lawsuit said. 

An email and call to Francis Murphy, the attorney representing Jacques, was not returned Thursday. 

Feeney has not submitted a response to the lawsuit. 

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.




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