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VOL. 44 | NO. 1 | Friday, January 3, 2020

Former deputies sue Tennessee agency, county over harassment

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FRANKLIN (AP) — Two former deputies of a Tennessee sheriff's office are suing the department and the county, alleging they weren't protected from a male training officer known for sexual harassment.

The federal lawsuit against the Williamson County Sheriff's Office and county was filed last month, The Tennessean reports. The training officer is not named as a defendant and no longer works at the department.

A disciplinary report shows an internal investigation substantiated unbecoming conduct and sexual harassment allegations against him. He was fired in July 2018, the same month one of the deputies formally complained about him and submitted her resignation, according to the lawsuit.

The officer repeatedly made inappropriate comments to the woman despite her continued rejection of his advances, according to the lawsuit. She stressed she had a husband and children, to which the officer reportedly responded, "Marriage doesn't mean anything. I'm engaged," according to the lawsuit. The officer threatened her job if she reported the harassment, it says.

That deputy's resignation was solely due to the fact that the department could not ensure that it would protect her at work, the lawsuit says. The other deputy was harassed in a similar manner, according to the lawsuit, which says her related complaint led male colleagues to stop speaking to her.

The sheriff's office should have known about the officer's inappropriate behavior because another woman had complained about him before the plaintiffs did, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit seeks $300,000 each for the two women.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Sharon Puckett said the department doesn't comment on pending litigation, but "we will file a timely answer in the pending lawsuit that will explain our position and defenses."

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