Commonwealth Journal

December 27, 2013

Jailer’s sex harassment settlement costs county’s insurance $137,500

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

 
A former Pulaski County Detention Center employee received more than $135,000 as part of a settlement in her sexual harassment lawsuit against Pulaski County Jailer Mike Harris. 
Rebecca Moses’ lawsuit, brought in U.S. District Court in London against Harris, was dismissed by United States District Judge Danny C. Reeves on Dec. 18 after both parties agreed to the dismissal of the lawsuit as per the settlement details. 
Included in that agreement is $137,500, to be paid by the county’s insurer, Travelers Insurance, to Moses. That’s according to the settlement documents, provided Friday by Pulaski County government to the Common-wealth Journal. 
The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, which means Moses cannot bring the lawsuit back up in court. 
Moses sued Harris, along with Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock and Pulaski County Magist-rates Jason Turpen, Mike Wilson, Tommy Barnett, Glen Maxey, and Mike Strunk, in September, claiming that she’d been the victim of sexual harassment during her time working for Harris between June 2012 and August 2012. 
 The lawsuit claimed Harris violated Moses’ civil rights by “conditioning her employment on submitting to Harris’ sexual demands.” The lawsuit alleged the sexual harassment began during her first week of employment, during which Harris allegedly told her to wear mini-skirts and stilettos to work.
“While working at PCDC, Moses’ employment was conditioned on her submission to the sexual advances of her supervisor, Harris, and to otherwise endure a work environment permeated with sexually charged comments, innuendo, inappropriate touching and other demeaning, humiliating, embarrassing, intimi-dating and threatening conduct directed toward Moses based on her sex,” the lawsuit read.
The lawsuit claimed that Harris’ conduct “was at all times unwelcome by Moses” and that Harris terminated Moses’ employment at PCDC “when she refused to submit to Harris’ sexual advances.” 
The lawsuit also claimed that “Harris had a known history of sexually harassing female employees and his ongoing harassment of Moses was widely known within the Pulaski County Detention Center and among members of Pulaski Fiscal Court.”
The lawsuit also alleged that Harris had a romantic relationship with one former assistant, and had another employee transferred to the Pulaski Animal Shelter when she spurned his sexual advances. Moses alleged in the lawsuit that Harris introduced her as his “woman” or his “wife” during state conferences they attended.
Moses accused Harris of intimidating her by taking her to an isolated location to show her where he’d had sex with other women. Harris was armed during the encounter, according to the lawsuit and reportedly said he “wouldn’t molest her unless she wanted him to” and told Moses that if a former employee ever told anyone about her sexual relationship with him he would have to “kill” her because a “divorce would cost him over a million dollars.”
Moses claimed Harris said he sought her out for employment because his wife couldn’t have children, which he desperately desired. The lawsuit also claimed Harris offered Moses money for a manicure and pedicure prior to a jailer’s conference and also offered her money for clothes. The lawsuit claimed Harris was visibly upset when Moses refused to take his money.
The lawsuit also alleged Harris “intentionally, maliciously and unlawfully touched Moses in a harmful and offensive manner on several occasions during her employment at PCDC.”
Moses also claimed in her lawsuit that Harris spit on her and knocked a phone out of her hand “to prevent Moses from reporting Harris’ inappropriate ... actions to Harris’ wife.”
Moses was seeking a jury trial and punitive and compensatory damages.
“I am pleased the lawsuit is resolved and I am eager to move on with my life,” Moses stated through a press release from Norfleet’s office after the case was dismissed. “Hopefully, this case has shined a light onto the indignity and humiliation that (Harris) and others impose on female employees of Pulaski County.”
Charles D. Cole, an attorney based in Lexington, represented Harris in the case. Cole has continued to maintain Harris’ innocence. 
“The Jailer (Harris) disputes the (Moses’) allegations, but is nonetheless satisfied that this lawsuit is now resolved,” Cole stated via email to the Commonwealth Journal on Dec. 18.