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Suit: Women discriminated against in Sheriff’s Department

April 11, 2022 GMT

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A detective sergeant is suing the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department in Tacoma, Washington, for alleged discrimination and retaliation against women.

Det. Sgt. Jessica Whitehead says she was punished for asking to avoid child violence investigations after the death of her stepdaughter, according to the lawsuit. Whitehead also said a complaint made to Human Resources was mishandled and she was treated differently than male employees.

A lawsuit was filed March 31 in Superior Court against the Sheriff’s Department, the county Human Resources Department, Undersheriff Brent Bomkamp, Chief Kevin Roberts and Lt. James Loeffelholz, The News Tribune reported.

No specific damages are outlined in the lawsuit.

Adam Faber, spokesperson for the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, which represents the Sheriff’s Department in legal matters, said he cannot comment on pending litigation.

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Whitehead is one of 163 women in a department of 667 employees, according to county statistics.

In April 2019, a male officer allegedly overheard Undersheriff Bomkamp make a sexist comment to another man in department leadership.

The lawsuit alleges the department did not abide by its own policy when investigating the undersheriff’s comments. Instead, it says, a lieutenant questioned female detectives, saying the undersheriff was angry that someone reported it.

In November, three Black women who work in Pierce County Jail sued the Sheriff’s Department, claiming a pattern of discrimination and retaliation that harmed minority employees. Pierce County Superior Judge Thomas Quinlan agreed and ordered the county last month to pay the defendants a total $850,000 in damages.

In 2017, the Pierce County Council approved a $680,000 settlement for a similar lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department.