Charmaine McGuffey’s lawsuit can proceed against Sheriff Jim Neil, federal judge rules

Charmaine McGuffey’s lawsuit can proceed against Sheriff Jim Neil, federal judge rules
Former Hamilton County jail boss Charmaine McGuffey addresses the media as Sheriff Jim Neil looks on in 2016. (Photo: FOX19 NOW/file)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A federal judge is allowing a lawsuit alleging retaliation against Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil and others to proceed - a lawsuit that was filed by his former jail boss who recently beat him in the Democratic primary.

Sheriff candidate Charmaine McGuffey will face Republican challenger Bruce Hoffbauer in the fall general election.

McGuffey was the first female commander at the sheriff’s office before she claimed she lost her job after more than three decades because she is a woman and a lesbian.

She was fired as the commander of the jail in 2017 and demoted to a lower-paying civilian job when an internal investigation determined she created a hostile work environment for officers, who she said complained out of resentment because she was a high-ranking woman and she tried to investigate use of force cases.

McGuffey sued the sheriff’s office, Sheriff Jim Neil, the county and county board of commissioners in 2018, saying she was targeted because she wanted to know every single use of force case that occurred, why and how they were resolved.

Her lawsuit alleges four counts of sexual discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

McGuffey is seeking to get her job back and be awarded back pay, as well as damages.

RELATED: Lawsuit: Jail boss ousted for being lesbian, raising use of force concerns

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott set the trial date for Dec. 7.

The judge noted in her decision earlier this week the “massive 108 pages” of McGuffey’s internal investigation that resulted in her demotion and ultimate ouster. By contrast, other probes were less than five pages.

“Plaintiff held each of her subordinates to high standards. As such, plaintiff does not fit heterosexual female stereotypes of passivity and femininity. Instead, plaintiff exhibits demeanor, mannerisms and appearances associated with masculinity,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also contends male majors got preferential treatment, that she was excluded from command staff meetings and that male subordinates were disrespectful to her.

In response to that, the lawsuit says, Neil told her some men in the department “don’t like working for a woman.”

Dlott wrote that the internal investigation showed “obvious differences” compared to other ones by the sheriff’s office and may have been “pretextual,” (intended to demote her).

“In sharp contrast to the investigations of heterosexuals and males, IA sought out and questioned numerous people who never filed a complaint against McGuffey,” Dlott wrote. “The obvious differences in the way those investigations were conducted raise genuine issues of material fact as to pretext.”

A spokesman for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office told FOX19 NOW: “No comment.”

McGuffey’s lawyer, Kelly Mulloy Myers of Freking, Myers and Reul issued the following statement Friday evening:

“Charmaine dedicated over 30 years of her life to the Sheriff’s Office. Her dedication to the job and her significant achievements resulted in her earning the rank of Major, the only woman to do so in the history of the Department. Unfortunately, she faced discrimination because of her gender, and retaliation because she raised questions about the use of excessive force in the Sheriff’s office. We are pleased the Court determined there was sufficient evidence supporting her claims that they should be heard by a jury, and we look forward to the day she is fully vindicated.”

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