Jail guard files $1.5 million sex bias suit 12-year vet says promotion denied because of gender

February 16, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A jail guard at the embattled Howard County Detention Center has filed a $1.5 million federal sex discrimination suit against the jail's director and the county executive.

Jolanta Czarny, who has been working as an officer at the jail for 12 years, alleges she has been denied promotion several times solely because she is a woman, according to the suit filed this month in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

No trial date has been set.

Court records filed by the plaintiff say that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated Czarny's complaint but chose not to proceed further.

EEOC spokesman Reginald Welch said his agency's decision not to pursue the case did not necessarily mean there was no discrimination taking place. It could reflect the complainant's desire to take the case to court, among other things, he said.

The suit comes as controversy has enveloped the 361-bed prison in Jessup.

A county grand jury recently issued a critical assessment of the jail after investigating allegations of sexual and physical abuse by officers there. The grand jury recommended the county establish an independent oversight panel to check the jail's management.

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker did not return a phone call Friday.

The grand jury also indicted two officers on charges they beat handcuffed inmates.

Two officers have been fired for having sexual relations with an inmate. And among simmering employee complaints, jail officers have said they have been punished for complaining about problems and criticizing supervisors, including James N. "Buck" Rollins, the jail's director.

In her suit, Czarny, a Laurel resident, alleges that she is qualified to become a corporal but has been denied a promotion between five and 10 times.

Czarny's attorney, Oren D. Saltzman of Ellicott City, said he did not know whether there was a pattern of sex discrimination at the jail. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages alleging lost wages and emotional distress.

Rollins said the suit is groundless. More than 20 percent of the 99 jail officers are women, Rollins said. Women hold similar percentages in the remaining 31 higher-ranking positions of corporal, sergeant, lieutenant and captain, Rollins said.

"We have an outstanding record of diversity of staff and different gender promotions," Rollins said.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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