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Alabama prison warden Leon Forniss sued for sexual harassment and retaliation

On January 8, 2014 an African-American former administrative support assistant filed a sexual harassment, race discrimination, and retaliation lawsuit against the State of Alabama Department of Corrections, Commissioner Kim Thomas, and her boss, Staton Correctional Facility warden Leon Forniss.

Sabrina Jackson claims that Kim Thomas, “as Warden of a State of Alabama facility acting under color of state law discriminated against Plaintiff because of her gender by sexually harassing and thereafter and thus deprived Plaintiff of her right to equal protection of the law. Defendant Forniss’ behavior in making sexual advances toward Plaintiff was unwelcome and offensive. It was so severe and pervasive as to affect the terms and conditions of Plaintiffs employment.”

According to the complaint:

Plaintiff was employed with the Alabama Department of Corrections from May 3, 2010 as Administrative Support Assistant II until her employment was terminated on July 20, 2012.

On May 4, 2012, Plaintiff was asked to obtain the mailroom keys from Ms. Tracy McMahon (a White Female) employed as an account clerk by the Alabama Department of Corrections to sign the keys in. Plaintiff asked Ms. McMahon for the keys at which time she became irate and tried to hit Plaintiff and in a protective reaction Plaintiff pushed Ms. McMahon. Plaintiff was notified by letter dated July 12, 2012 that she would be dismissed from the employment of the Alabama Department of Corrections effective July 20,2012 from Defendant Kim T. Thomas,  His action according to the letter was based on the recommendation of Defendant Forniss and her overall work record.

Plaintiff was accused of causing an injury to the account clerk’s head. The matter was investigated and Plaintiff was accused of following the account clerk into her office where there was no witnesses and assaulting the account clerk.

To the best of Plaintiff’s knowledge Ms. McMahon employment was not terminated.

In incidents of verbal and physical altercations on the job between Black employees at Staton Correctional Facility the Department did not dismiss the employees.

Prior to Plaintiff’s termination of employment, she  expressed to James Deloach, an Associate Commissioner with the Department, her concerns regarding the treatment of female inmates who were incarcerated at the Tutwiler Prison for Women.

In February  2012, Defendant  Forniss  called Plaintiff  to his office and told her to come to the side of his deck. When she did, he pulled his pants tight and opened his legs so that the outline of his genital was showing. Plaintiff  found this to be offensive. On another occasion,  Plaintiff was working at her computer when Defendant Forniss came up behind her and started breathing heavily on her neck. He told her that she smelled good and the outfit she was wearing looked good. Defendant Forniss throughout Plaintiff’s tenure continued to make sexual suggestive comments and actions toward Plaintiff that was offensive to her even though she asked him to stop. Plaintiff later learned that two sexual harassment complaints had been filed against Defendant Forniss. On June 25, 2012 Plaintiff sent a written complaint to Defendant Thomas about being the victim of sexual harassment by Defendant Forniss.

To the best of Plaintiffs knowledge her allegations of sexual harassment was not investigated.

Plaintiffs applied for unemployment compensation employment after her employment was terminated with the Alabama Department of Corrections, and was approved for unemployment compensation because no misconduct was found on her part.

Based on the above incidents, and Plaintiffs belief that she was being retaliated against for reporting abuse of female inmates, racial discrimination against her, and her being the victim of sexual harassment, Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

On or about November 18, 2013, Plaintiff received a “right to sue” letter.

 

Alabama prison warden Leon Forniss sued for sexual harassment and retaliation
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