The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, October 26, 2021 1:00 am

Huntington County seeks more time in suit

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

Huntington County has asked for more time to respond to a lawsuit an employee filed because of alleged retaliation after she reported sexual harassment.

Kari Harmon of Huntington filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne this month. She has been an employee of the county since 2006.

Harmon was working as the officer manager in Prosecutor Amy Richison's office in 2019 when she said Richison “made an offensive and inappropriate comment” that Harmon believes was sexual harassment, court documents state. After she reported the comment, she was demoted as office manager and had to train her replacement, who was an employee who has worked below her previously, according to the suit.

Harmon was asked by the new office manager to use Harmon's credentials to access a vendor used by the county, which she refused. Harmon asked to be transferred to another department a few months later, and she started working in the county criminal violations department.

In November, Harmon said she was asked to make entries on the official court docket stating certain hearings had been canceled, “when they had in fact taken place,” according to the lawsuit.

“Ms. Harmon refused to make false entries on the court docket and received a hostile response to her refusal,” court documents state.

About a month later, Harmon said she was told she could not review police reports, which made it nearly impossible to prepare warrants and issue notices.

In February, she alleges she was asked to do more improper tasks, including not scanning official court documents into the electronic filing system.

Before her transfer, Harmon said she was denied certain benefits, including longevity pay and payment for compensatory time. In 2020, she had issues with her dental insurance provided through the county, the lawsuit said.

“Ms. Harmon was subject to additional harassment at her workplace in retaliation of her sexual harassment complaint and in retaliation of her refusal to take part in improper and illegal activities,” the lawsuit states. “Prior to the events described in this complaint, Ms. Harmon had never received a negative performance review during her employment with the county.”

Harmon was placed on medical leave in February because of the harassment, court documents state.

Harmon has demanded a jury trial and is seeking all compensatory damages including but not limited to all wages, salary, employment benefits and compensation denied to or lost by because of the incidents. She has also asked for damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, attorney's fees, pre- and post-judgment interests and other relief “that is just and proper,” court documents state.

Huntington County filed a request Thursday for more time to respond to the lawsuit with a proposed deadline of Nov. 23.

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