Cheshire Sheriffs Employee Alleges Sexual Harassment
Not long after former Cheshire County Attorney Peter Heed was arrested for DWI, more shocking allegations have been made against other county officers – this time the Sheriff’s department, and by one of their own. A dispatcher in the department alleges constant sexual harassment by department employees and also that then-Sheriff Dick Foote attempted to intimidate her. The Sentinel has the story:
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A dispatcher for the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office filed a civil lawsuit against the department alleging discrimination and sexual harassment.
The dispatcher, Abbie Fox, claims that her employee rights were violated because some department employees sexually harassed her for a lengthy period of time.
Fox also claims that the department supervisor neglected to handle her complaints properly, which ultimately created a hostile work environment for her, according to the six-page suit filed Jan. 9 in federal court in Concord.
Before Fox sued the department, she filed a discrimination complaint with the N.H. Commission for Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 2011.
When people in the department found out Fox filed a complaint, some employees retaliated against her and created a hostile atmosphere for her, Fox said. This caused her to fear that the department was “setting her up” to lose her job, according to the lawsuit.
Now, Fox is asking for an undisclosed amount of money in damages and a civil trial before a judge, according to the suit. Her attorney, Elizabeth B. Olcott of Concord, could not be reached to answer questions about the damages sought.
Fox, who has been a dispatcher at the department since October 2010, said the harassment started in May 2011 when a male dispatcher said to her that she “had done well in an existing sales position as ‘sex sells.’ ”
Later that month, Fox claims there was “inappropriate sexualized behavior” between the same male dispatcher and another female dispatcher while they were on the job. The female dispatcher sat on the male dispatcher’s lap and said, “I’ll show you my boobs if you broadcast this BOL,” according to the lawsuit.
Fox, who told both dispatchers that their behavior was “unwanted,” also complained to other co-workers in the department about the incidents, according to the suit. Her co-workers said that any further action was useless because “that’s the way it is,” the lawsuit says.
The two dispatchers then kept up the alleged behavior “night after night,” according to the suit.
In October 2011, Fox complained to her supervisor, then-county sheriff Richard A. Foote, about the incidents, according to the suit. The female dispatcher was allowed to resign after an investigation and the male dispatcher kept his job and continued to harass Fox, according to the lawsuit.
Fox filed a complaint with the N.H. Commission for Human Rights in November, which claimed there was a lack of control in the department, a failure to follow the sexual harassment policy and failure to protect her.
In December, Fox said she was called into Foote’s office, where he told her that the department received the complaint she filed with the commission for human rights and that Fox needed to have her lawyer ready because they would be starting an investigation on Fox, according to the lawsuit.
Employees spread demeaning public comments about her, constantly singled her out for complaints and issues on the job that were not her fault and continued to leave her unsupervised with the male dispatcher who had been harassing her, according to the lawsuit.
In July 2012, Foote told Fox that she was the one creating a “hostile working environment,” according to the lawsuit. This led Fox to believe that her job was at risk, according to the suit.
She also believes that the harassment and improper actions from employees were because of her gender, Fox said in the lawsuit.
Foote declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday because the suit is ongoing.
Fox and the male dispatcher who she claims harassed her are both still employees of the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office, according to county Sheriff Eliezer Rivera.
Danielle Rivard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-1234 ext. 1435. Follow her on Twitter @DRivardKS.