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Two file grievances against sheriff’s department, claiming discrimination

At least two Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. employees, one of whom no longer works there, recently filed grievances with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claiming discrimination.
Another charge of discrimination was filed last November against Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick’s department.
Deatrick denies the claims.
Ray Byrne, 57, of Ramsey, whose complaint was signed May 16, told the EEOC that since his employment with the department in 1996, he had discussed his possible resignation in late April with the sheriff. (In the document, Byrne does not state why he had talked about resigning.)
‘I was told by Sheriff Deatrick to take a few weeks vacation and my position would remain open,’ Byrne said. ‘I was told by Sheriff Deatrick to inform him by May 12, 2004, if I decided to remain in my position.’
On May 3, Byrne said he tried to contact the sheriff about returning to work, ‘but he would not return my calls or acknowledge my visits.
‘On May 11, 2004, Sheriff Deatrick informed my son (an officer on the force) that he had terminated me from my position and I would not be allowed to return from vacation. I have learned that Sheriff Deatrick has stated that he was taking action against me because he believed I had been involved and provided information’ in another on-going investigation of a civil rights violation, Byrne said.
Deatrick said he had urged Byrne not to quit.
‘I appointed him captain on Jan. 1,’ the sheriff said. ‘I kept trying to encourage him. It went on until, say, three weeks ago, and he told several in the back he was quitting. I never said anything. I tried to encourage him. They throwed a big dinner for him.’
Deatrick said he gave Byrne 10 days of vacation time to try out the other job, and if he didn’t like it, Deatrick would let him come back.
‘On the 11th day, I hired another guy. Ray Byrne said that wasn’t right … I didn’t do anything to him. He had quit.’
Byrne said the amount of time the sheriff gave him to return to the corrections position is in dispute, with Deatrick saying he had given Byrne 10 days, and Byrne saying he had more than two weeks to make up his mind.
‘I can’t prove anything,’ Byrne said, adding that the conversation was between the two of them, behind closed doors. ‘I spent eight years in that place. It gets very upsetting,’ Byrne said.
He said it is impossible to work with Lt. Andrea Barham, a corrections officer Deatrick has promoted over others.
‘She can’t hardly speak English,’ Byrne said. ‘She talks to people like they are dogs, inmates and co-workers. She is rude and short-tempered.
‘I want the public to know what is going on. The people have a right to know.’
Harrison County attorney Chris Byrd said the EEOC will investigate the charges to determine if the allegations have merit. If so, the EEOC can recommend that a lawsuit be filed.
Deatrick said those who place blame on Barham, a Panamanian, for upheaval in the corrections department, resent her leadership capabilities.
‘She is a super-good person, strong-willed, a dominant-type person,’ Deatrick said, adding that Barham is also well educated.
‘I put her in charge because she is strong. She is not a loafer.
‘Andrea Barham is a tough little cookie,’ the sheriff said. ‘If you don’t do the job she gives you, she does what has to be done to keep the department running efficiently. She stopped the laziness and everything.’
He added: ‘The EEOC came down with their attorney. I said, ‘Where did you get this information?’ They said, ‘Capt. Byrne.’ ‘
Barham also denies the allegations and said she thinks she is being discriminated against.
Danielle Smith, 32, New Salisbury, said she began her job with corrections in December 1996 and was promoted in 2000 to commissary/corrections officer.
‘In February 2004, I complained to Sheriff Deatrick about Lt. Andrea Barham’s harassing behavior and sexually offensive language that she uses while on duty.
‘After I complained to Sheriff Deatrick, he threatened to fire me on several occasions,’ Smith said. ‘On April 23, I was demoted by Ms. Barham with no reason given, which resulted in a change of work days and a reduction in pay.’
She added: ‘On April 28, 2004, I reported to work and received a verbal warning, a written warning and a three-day suspension from Ms. Barham, Captain Ridenour and Sheriff Deatrick.
‘I believe I have been discriminated against in retaliation for complaining of discriminatory treatment and for participating in an investigation that is being conducted’ by the EEOC, Smith said.
She is still employed in the sheriff’s department.
According to written warnings given to Smith for ‘insubordination,’ the incident involved her ‘cursing and yelling’ at Barham, Ridenour and the sheriff.
In her response, Smith denies that and asks why she was warned.
Deatrick said when he took office in 2002, corrections workers were told, ‘We aren’t going to have cursing and hollering back there.
The sheriff added, ‘It’s a man’s world back there
‘They deal with people that cusses them everytime they open their mouth.’
With the installation of Jimmy Ridenour as captain, Deatrick said there has been a vast improvement in behavior.
‘I try to be as good to everybody as I can,’ Deatrick said. ‘Some disagree with what I do, but … ‘
Cindy Avis of Ramsey, a secretary in the sheriff’s front office since April 2002, works from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. four days a week.
‘In the last couple of weeks, I think things have really improved as far as what I can see.’
Employee traffic in and out of the sheriff’s office has declined considerably, she said. ‘There was lots of traffic before.’
When Lina J. Misamore, 25, Corydon, filed papers with the EEOC in November 2003, she said she had been given a choice of resigning or being fired. She resigned.
‘During my employment before and after Feb. 1, 2003, I was subjected to gender-related slurs by co-workers and members of management,’ Misamore said in papers filed with the EEOC.
‘Additionally, I was subjected to sexual harassment by co-workers. I complained to management concerning the sexual harassment and slurs, but nothing was done and the actions continued. On Nov. 12, 2003, I was given a choice of either resignation or termination. I chose to resign.
‘I believe that I have been subjected to adverse terms and conditions of employment and that I have been sexually harassed because of my gender, female, and also that I have been constructively discharged in retaliation for having complained of the sexual harassment and adverse terms and conditions of employment,’ Misamore said.
She said she understands that such retaliation is ‘in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended.
Deatrick said, ‘I didn’t make her quit. She quit on her own.’
The EEOC’s investigation into the claims is continuing.