Commonwealth Journal

December 18, 2013

Lawsuit against jailer settled

Former employee had alleged sexual harassment against Harris

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

A lawsuit filed against Pulaski County Jailer Mike Harris by a former employee who claimed he sexually harassed her was settled this week in federal court. 
United States District Judge Danny C. Reeves on Wednesday signed an order dismissing the case brought by Rebecca Moses against Harris. Moses, represented by local attorney Robert Norfleet, filed the lawsuit in September in United States District Court in London, Ky.
“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. “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 on Wednesday stated that Harris continues to deny all of the allegations in Moses’ lawsuit, but is glad to see an end to the case. 
“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. 
Moses had worked for Harris at the Pulaski County Detention Center 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, intimidating 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.
Also named in the lawsuit were Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock and Pulaski County Magistrates Jason Turpen, Mike Wilson, Tommy Barnett, Glen Maxey, and Mike Strunk. 
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.
Norfleet stated on Wednesday he and Moses are “very happy” with the case’s resolution.
“We were pleased to see the Pulaski County government step up so quickly after the filing of the suit to reach a financial settle(ment) of (Moses’) claims,” Norfleet stated. “The facts of this case are extremely disturbing, especially because they involve elected officials. Women have an unquestionable right to a work environment free from such sexually harassing conduct.”
Norfleet, when asked about the specifics of the settlement agreement, referred a reporter with the Commonwealth Journal to county officials. 
An open records request seeking that information was filed with the county late Wednesday afternoon.