County officer settles in sex harassment case

November 27, 1991|By Brian Sullam

A Baltimore County policewoman was awarded $245,000 yesterday and reinstated to another job to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against the office created to handle just such complaints.

Anne N. Fiedler charged in the 1990 federal lawsuit that she had to quit the police force because her superiors retaliated against her for filing a complaint that fellow officers made sexually derogatory statements to her and an applicant seeking to join the force.

The settlement was reached before the case went to trial. Ms. Fielder would not comment on the settlement, but her attorney, Kathleen M. Cahill, said the case sends a message to the department.

"I think the message is that there are laws to protect women and minorities, and those who speak out against discrimination," said Ms. Cahill. "There are those who will take the risk and hold officials accountable in the public eye, and that is what Anne Fielder did. The next person who gets into Ms. Fielder's jam will be handled differently."

As part of the settlement, Ms. Fiedler will remain on the police department's payroll but her job will be to investigate insurance claims against the county.

"Ms. Fiedler is sad to leave the police force, but she is glad to have a job with the county," Ms. Cahill said.

In 1988, Ms. Fielder was assigned to the department's Employment/Affirmative Action Division, where she worked to recruit women and minorities for the force.

The office was created as part of a settlement of a sex and race discrimination suit brought by the U.S. Justice Department against Baltimore County in 1978.

In June 1989, Ms. Fielder was interviewing a female job applicant, when three other officers in the affirmative action office began making suggestive comments about the applicant's body. Several said they wanted to perform her physical examination.

Ms. Fielder filed a complaint with the department, and, as a result, Detective Steve DeBoy was transferred out of the affirmative action office. Almost immediately, according to the suit, Sergeant William Unkle, Mr. DeBoy's supervisor, told other officers that Ms. Fiedler was responsible for his transfer.

From that time, the suit alleges, Ms. Fiedler was subjected to continued harassment.

Officers supervised by Mr. Unkle shunned her, and a male officer was required to terminate his car pool with her.

Ms. Fiedler allegedly reported all this to Robert Frame, commander of the affirmative action office.

He took no action, the suit said.

Then Jerry Blevins, a colonel who was responsible for the unit, heard about Ms. Fiedler's plight and asked the Internal Affairs Department to investigate the situation.

The suit alleges, however, that internal affairs never investigated the incidents of harassment, but instead charged Ms. Fiedler with criminal misconduct for "flashing her middle finger" at a colleague in jest.

As punishment, Ms. Fiedler was going to be sent back to patrol.

Before that happened, however, Mr. Frame took Ms. Fiedler out to lunch in an effort to reconcile with her. After lunch, he took her to her house to check on some work and kissed her forcibly, the suit said.

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