Investigation finds deputy was harassed by coworkers at the Linn County Jail over parental leave

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courtesy of Linn County Sheriff’s Office

Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner announced on Wednesday he is taking disciplinary actions against a group of sheriff’s office employees for harassing a deputy. The actions are the result of a two-month-long investigation into behavior at the Linn County Correctional Center.

According to a written statement released by Gardner, a deputy working at the correctional center filed a complaint on June 26, “alleging that he was being harassed by his coworkers for utilizing parental leave, authorized by the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).”

In his three-page statement, Gardner did not offer any description of alleged harassment, but does say he considered the complaint serious enough to hire an outside attorney — Douglas Duckett of Cincinnati, Ohio, an expert in labor and human resources law — to investigate the allegations. The Linn County Department of Human Resources has hired Duckett in the past to conduct training for county employees.

Duckett submitted his report on Sept. 18, after interviewing 24 people with knowledge of the incidents.

The report found some sheriff’s office employees did harass the deputy because he used parental leave. The correctional center is understaffed and its staff routinely work multiple 16-hour shifts during a week, Gardner explained in his statement.

“The report concluded that the deputy’s co-workers targeted him out of anger about the impact of his leave, but did not find unlawful, discriminatory harassment under state or federal law,” according to Gardner’s summary of the report.

But according to Gardner, some of the behavior merits disciplinary action. He told the Gazette that three or four employees, at least one of whom is a deputy, will be suspended for “no longer than a week or two.” An unspecified number of other employees will receive written warnings. Correction center employees have already been required to watch an hour-long anti-harassment video.

Gardner said employee confidentiality laws prevent him from disclosing more details. His statement, however, did disclose that Duckett billed the sheriff’s department $34,765.70 for his investigation.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office is in the process of hiring and training more deputies, and according to Gardner, the correctional center should be fully staffed by April 2020.

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