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Baxter County Sheriff’s Department to face claims of sexual harassment, retaliation in federal court

Baxter County and the Baxter County Sheriff’s Department are headed to federal court after a former employee filed a complaint with the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas alleging instances of sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation and negligence.

Tabitha L. King, a former jailer and reserve deputy with the Baxter County Sheriff’s Department, alleged in her complaint that she was wrongfully terminated after notifying her superiors that she was sexually harassed by a member of the Sheriff’s Office.

Defendants listed in the filing are Baxter County, the Baxter County Sheriff’s Department, Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery, and Steven Goode, a former Sergeant with the Baxter County Sheriff’s Department.

King is a resident of Baxter County.

“Tabatha King worked at the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office and was terminated on April 23, 2021,” said Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery when asked for a comment on the case. “After the termination, she made a complaint of sexual harassment. The Sheriff’s Office promptly investigated the complaint, and during the investigation, a supervisor was fired. All Sheriff’s Office employees received sexual harassment training after this incident. Due to ongoing litigation, no further information will be released at this time.”

Filed on December 15 of the last year, King’s complaint details a series of events that led to her eventual termination from the department.

King, who began to work for the Sheriff’s department in 2018, alleges that in the Spring of 2019, former Sergeant Steven Goode forced King down on her knees and sexually assaulted her while they were moving inmate mattresses to a storage unit.

King claims to have pushed Goode off of her and alleges that Goode told her “she had better keep her mouth shut, or there would be consequences through retaliation.”

In her complaint, King further alleges that Goode began to send her pictures of his penis in 2019. Those pictures were allegedly documented and reported to Dawn Dunford, head dispatcher for the department, who allegedly stated she would report the photos to Lieutenant Brad Lewis.

King also claims that Goode sent other female employees unsolicited pictures of his penis and that his nickname within the department was “Corporal Dick Pic.” King alleges that Goode’s actions were permitted and condoned by the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff John Montgomery.

In the court filing, King claims to have requested to be put on a different rotation but was denied. In March 2021, over a full year after her initial complaints, King alleges that Goode “wrote in King’s yearly evaluation that she was insubordinate with no cause given. King’s badge and gun privileges were revoked with the reason given as the fact that she was on anxiety medication.”

She then alleges that “these events were retaliation by Goode due to King’s reports of sexual harassment.”

Per the court filing, on April 15, 2021, King is stated to have reported to Captain Lewis “that Sgt. Goode had sexually assaulted and sexually harassed her and retaliated against her in an evaluation.”

The filing then states that King was then terminated on or about April 23, 2021.

King also alleges that “when King met with Sheriff Montgomery, he stated he knew of King’s complaint regarding the evaluation Sgt. Goode prepared. When King pressed Sheriff Montgomery about the sexual assault complaint, he waved his arms, exclaiming, ‘No, we will not discuss this.’”

King further alleges that “Defendants were negligent in failing to adequately train their management, supervisors, and other personnel regarding discrimination and harassment in the workplace.”

An investigator with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigated King’s termination and in a letter to King wrote, “Investigation revealed your evaluation was not remarkably unfavorable and while you had opportunity to rebut the evaluation under Respondent policy, you did not. You were not suspended, but rather your access to weapons was temporarily removed due to safety concerns by the employer. You were discharged following an altercation with a co-worker in which your official statement was inconsistent with the evidence. There is insufficient evidence establishing a causal nexus between your sex, disability, your alleged 2019 complaints, and any adverse employment action. Based upon the evidence available, EEOC is unable to conclude that there was a violation under the laws enforced by EEOC.”

The EEOC issued the following determination: “The EEOC will not proceed further with its investigation, and makes no determination about whether further investigation would establish violations of the statute. This does not mean the claims have no merit. This determination does not certify that the respondent is in compliance with the statutes. The EEOC makes no finding as to the merits of any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge.”

Per the court filing, King asked that she be granted judgment against the Defendants, jointly and severally, and in favor of the Plaintiff as follows:

  • a. For compensatory and punitive damages in an amount· excess of that required for federal jurisdictional purposes;
  • b. For an aware of back pay, including overtime and all raises from the date of termination to the date of trial, less any amount she has received in mitigation of her damages at other employment;
  • c. For full benefits, or the monetary equivalent of the same, for group health, dental, life disability, and other insurance benefits provided by the Defendants, from the date of termination to the date of trial; and
  • d. For all profit sharing and bonuses, the Plaintiff would have received from the date of termination to the date of trial.

The Mountain Home Observer reached out to the attorney representing King for comment on the case but did not receive a reply back by the time of this writing.

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