Ex-officer sues Balto. Co. police force Woman alleges harassment, seeks $9 million in damages

December 19, 1990|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

A woman who resigned from the Baltimore County Police Department last month has filed a $9 million sex-discrimination and harassment suit against the department and two of her former superior officers, claiming they made her life on the job intolerable.

The plaintiff, former Officer Anne Noell Fiedler of Catonsville, alleges that Capt. Robert Frame, commander of the Employment-Affirmative Action Division, and Sgt. William Unkle, a supervisor in the division, prompted harassment against her and retaliated against her themselves after she reported a fellow police officer for harassing a female job applicant.

Fiedler, whose husband is a retired county police officer, also charges Frame with civil assault and battery in the suit for allegedly trying to kiss her when he took her to his home on a ruse last August.

She contends in the suit that she did not report that incident because she feared she would lose her job if she did.

Fiedler's attorney, Kathleen Cahill, filed the suit yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

County police spokesman E. Jay Miller said he was not aware of the suit, but "I wouldn't have any comment anyway, because it's in litigation."

Specifically, Fiedler's suit charges Frame and Unkle with conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and repeated violations of federal civil rights laws and the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, which forbid retaliation and sex discrimination, in addition to the assault and battery charge against Frame.

The suit requests $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages on each of six counts, plus back pay and benefits, future pay and benefits and prejudgment interest.

Fiedler worked as a police officer from Aug. 23, 1986, to Nov. 26, 1990. She resigned after an internal investigation failed to sustain charges against Unkle and sustained only one minor, unrelated charge against Frame after she had told investigators of the alleged retaliation.

Investigators sustained a misconduct charge against Fiedler for making a hand gesture to a fellow officer. She says in the suit that she had made the hand gesture in jest.

She resigned, the suit says, because the department's chain of command and internal investigation "wholly failed" to recognize and relieve the "discriminatory, retaliatory and harassing treatment" she suffered and because her unbearable working conditions had damaged her mental and physical health.

The harassment allegedly began in June 1989, when Frame prompted Fiedler to disclose details of an incident in which a detective and two other officers from the division's applications unit had sexually harassed a female job applicant.

The detective directed a sexually explicit gesture and a smutty comment at Fiedler when she told the three to stop, the suit says.

Fiedler's report led to an internal investigation, after which the detective was disciplined and transferred out of the division early this year, the suit says.

The day after the detective was disciplined, Fiedler alleges, two fellow officers told her that Unkle told them no one should talk to her, and another officer told her that Frame had directed him to stop car pooling to work with her.

Over the next several months, Unkle and other officers in the TTC division "ostracized, shunned and harassed" Fiedler, the suit says, and some officers told her, "You took it too far," referring to the internal charges against the detective.

Fiedler also alleges that Unkle told her women should not be police officers "because they get their period" and said she could never work in his unit because she "wasn't man enough."

Fiedler alleges that a racial slur made by an officer in Unkle's unit against a Nigerian job applicant led Col. Jerry Blevins, Frame's superior, to order an internal investigation of the division last March.

That probe led to the misconduct charge against Fiedler and investigative proceedings against Frame, Unkle and three other officers, one of them a woman.

Fiedler says in her suit that Frame told her and her husband, Marc, that "nothing was going to happen" in the internal probe.

Investigators sustained the charge against Fiedler and a charge against Frame for letting employees leave work early, but failed to sustain any charges against Frame and Unkle for their roles in the alleged discrimination, retaliation and harassment.

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