Ex-Alabama Sheriff Sued for Sexual Harassment

(CN) – A former Alabama sheriff told a female detention officer that he expected her to submit to a sexual proposition after he hired her for her new job, the officer claims in federal court.

Debra Hopson, who worked as a detention officer for the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department from May 2015 to February 2016, sued former Sumter County Sheriff Tyrone Clark this week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Western Division.

Hopson’s complaint alleges violations of her employment rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendment, as well as sex discrimination and retaliation under the Civil Rights Act.

Hopson also named current Sumter County Sheriff Brian Harris as defendant, along with the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department and the Sumter County Commission.

According to the April 10 complaint, Hopson was propositioned by Clark just days after she began working at the Sumter County jail.

“Within in a week of starting, Hopson was called into the Sheriff’s office, and asked if she was ready to pay her debt for being hired,” the complaint states.

“Sheriff Clark stated that he expected ‘head’ from her,” the complaint continues. “Sheriff Clark showed Hopson his office and full bath and informed her that afterwards, she could take a bath, clean up and go back to work.”

Approximately ten months after the incident, Hopson claims that she was placed on administrative leave and instructed “not to report to work.”

“Hopson now believes that was so that she would not be present when federal investigators came to the jail,” the complaint states.

Hopson claims she did speak to the investigators, however, and after giving a statement concerning her alleged sexual harassment and mismanagement at the jail, she says she was “never called back to work.”

Hopson also claims that she testified before the Alabama Supreme Court in an impeachment trial against Clark, and despite his ultimate removal from office, she was not rehired by the department.

“Hopson re-applied for employment in writing and was informed that it would be up to the new Sheriff whether she could be re-hired,” the complaint states. “A new Sheriff, Brian Harris, was hired who has not re-hired Hopson.”

Clark was automatically removed as the Sumter County sheriff in July 2016 after the Alabama Supreme Court found him guilty of willful neglect of duty and corruption. The trial centered on his oversight of the Sumter County Prison.

According to Hopson, the department’s failure to rehire her amounts to retaliation for her testimony.

She seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, enjoining defendants from engaging in retaliation, gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and ordering them “to establish written policies and procedures against such discriminatory conduct.”

She also seeks back pay, along with compensatory and punitive damages.

Hopson is represented by Birmingham attorneys Lee Winston and Roderick Cooks.

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