Ex-Hamilton County jail boss files discrimination complaint

Updated: Aug. 11, 2017 at 1:29 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The former commander of the Hamilton County jail and courthouse alleges in a federal discrimination complaint she lost her job because she is a woman and a lesbian.

Charmaine McGuffey worked for the sheriff's office more than 30 years until she was terminated effective June 1, according to her complaint.

"I most recently held the position of Major of Court and Jail Services and was fully qualified for my position," the complaint states.

"I was promoted to Major of Court and Jail Services in 2013, when Jim Neil became Sheriff. I was the first female to hold this position. I was always under scrutiny from Chief Mark Schoonover because I was female and because of my sexual orientation," her complaint reads.

"I had to work harder than similarly situated males to prove myself. Chief Schoonover consistently treated me differently than my male peers. I frequently brought up issues to the Chief and Sheriff regarding my male subordinates and their disrespectfulness towards me.

"I was told by the Sheriff that some men in the department just don't like working for a woman. Despite disparate treatment, I performed my duties at a high level. I made many positive reforms to the jail system and received numerous recommendations.

In May, her complaint states, she was notified she would be terminated from her position due to an internal investigation alleging hostile work environment and her alleged dishonesty during the probe.

"Sheriff Neil stated he did not read the report and was relying on the recommendation of Chief Schoonover. The report contains comments from my male colleagues identifying me as very "pro-lesbian" and many of the females interviewed were questioned regarding how intimate of a relationship we had.

"The investigation was biased. Further, many of the allegations I was questioned about allegedly occurred at the beginning of my promotion in 2013. I was replaced by a male.

"I believe I have been discriminated against, retaliated against and unjustly terminated because of my gender and sexual orientation in violation...of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

A spokesman for the sheriff's office declined comment Friday, saying the agency did not discuss pending litigation.

In these types of complaints, former employees typically seek reinstatement plus back pay and benefits.

In May, McGuffey said she would be demoted and lose her rank of major and be moved to a lower-paying civilian job, according to our news partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The demotion was based on a 107-page internal affairs report that describes a sheriff's office rife with back-stabbing and dysfunction, one in which some employees secretly recorded conversations to protect their interests.

The investigation found McGuffey favored some employees over others, demeaned and yelled at subordinates, misled investigators and bullied her personal assistant, the newspaper reported.

McGuffey, however, said she's the one victimized by a hostile work environment. She said internal affairs investigators targeted her after she raised concerns about the way they handled excessive force accusations against corrections officers.

"I believe that this is a witch hunt, and I thought that it was from the beginning as soon as I heard they were launching an investigation," McGuffey told the Enquirer in May.

In a statement to the Enquirer at that time, Sheriff Neil said his office took action to look into "serious allegations" that were raised about McGuffey.

"We police ourselves of any wrongdoing. Throughout the course of a very thorough investigation, these allegations were substantiated.  Based on those findings and the unanimous recommendations of both our Internal Affairs Unit and legal advisers it was determined we could not allow Charmaine McGuffey to remain in a management position."

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