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Police Dept. ordered to pay $70,000 to female employee in sex-bias case

The State Division of Human Rights has ordered the Jamestown Police Department to pay a civilian female employee about $70,000 for back salary and mental anguish in a sex-discrimination case.

In an order dated Oct. 23, Human Rights Commissioner Kumiki Gibson also gave the department 30 days to establish a policy and a training program on sex discrimination.

The case stems from the January 2004 dismissal of Laurie L. Barnes, who worked with victims of domestic violence as coordinator of the Project Crossroads program, which was jointly administered by the Police Department and the Jamestown YWCA.

Barnes was fired shortly after she filed a detailed list of grievances against Officer Kenneth Sleight, who oversaw the program for the Police Department.

Barnes complained that Sleight, who supervised her activities, used sexually offensive language and engaged in other offensive activities toward women clients and other women in the office.

Barnes said Sleight also had a romantic relationship with YWCA Executive Director Beth Oakes, who also directed the program. When their relationship turned sour, Barnes said, Sleight took it out on her, treating her more harshly.

According to investigators in the case, Sleight frequently made derogatory comments about domestic-violence clients, calling them "mental midgets," "inbred" and "skank."

Language in the project office was so bad, investigators wrote, that other officers in adjacent rooms complained to the police chief about it.

It also was alleged that Sleight had inappropriate relationships with female clients. One woman complained that he stared at her chest throughout an interview. It was alleged that he gave his cell phone number to another client, received gifts from her and ordered Barnes out of the office and locked the door after this client came to visit.

Sleight began retaliating against Barnes after she complained to Oakes about his behavior in April 2003, investigators wrote.

Investigators reported that Sleight would not allow Barnes to use flex time for overtime hours worked, informed her in 2003 that the manner she had filled out the client contact dates during the previous two years was incorrect, continually questioned her schedule and continually varied his instructions on the preparation of statistical reports.

When Barnes gave a written list of complaints about Sleight to the YWCA in November 2003, she was told that she would have to take it directly to the Police Department. She filed her complaint with the department the following month. Police officials refused to meet with her. She was fired three weeks later.

The Police Department was ordered to compensate Barnes $39,673.50 in back pay, plus interest, for the 18 months' salary she lost before she found another job. The department also was ordered to pay her $30,000 for mental anguish and humiliation.

The Police Department has 60 days to file an appeal.


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