ATLANTA, Ga. — Four women have sued the Fulton County Sheriff's Office for a total of $8 million, saying the office has a culture of sexual harassment in which even ranking officers engage in verbal and physical harassment.
Marvin Devlin, the attorney for the women, said Tuesday that he expects more lawsuits to be filed. He said at least three other clients are pursuing sexual harassment complaints against the Sheriff's Office and he is investigating others.
Sheriff Ted Jackson took office earlier this month, but the harassment detailed in the lawsuits would have taken place under former Fulton Sheriff Myron Freeman, who took office in 2004. The suits name the Fulton County Sheriff's Office, Freeman and various other officers.
Neither Freeman nor Jackson could be immediately reached Tuesday night for comment.
New Chief Jailer Riley Taylor said Jackson, the current sheriff, takes sexual harassment seriously. "… One of the things the sheriff is insistent on is that employees are going to be held accountable and responsible for their actions."
Jackson, a retired FBI agent, defeated Freeman in the November election. Freeman had won in 2004 after long-term Sheriff Jackie Barrett elected not to run again.
Devlin, who said he is investigating complaints from other women inside the Sheriff's Office, said the named officers in the lawsuits have a history of in-house sexual harassment complaints that were ignored by past administrations.
"This many ladies can't be lying about the same perpetrator," Devlin said. "It is not the run-of-the-mill off-color joke. It is actual touching, lewdness and forced contact."
Most of the harassment took place inside Fulton County's jail, Devlin said.
One of the women who filed suit, a former executive secretary, said she tolerated off-color jokes during the three years she worked for the sheriff until a lieutenant made an obscene reference about her performing a sexual act.
Miriam Taylor, who is no relation to the chief jailer, said she had worked for the county for 17 years before quitting.
She said while she had personnel-board protection as a classified employee, a lot of the women who were harassed were employees who could be fired at will.
"Working at the Sheriff's Office is like Sodom and Gomorrah," she said. "The worst sexual harassment I've seen in county government is working for the department that is supposed to protect you. They abuse their authority. They do just the opposite of what they took an oath to do."