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Jail employee files federal suit, accuses jail officials of retaliation

A Fayette County jail employee filed a federal lawsuit against the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government last week accusing jail officials of punishing him in retaliation for a previous lawsuit.

Sgt. Justin Crawford says he was subjected to multiple reprimands, including a weeklong suspension, because he was a plaintiff in a 2006 lawsuit against the urban county government, according to the lawsuit filed Aug. 25 in U.S. District Court in Lexington.

City spokeswoman Susan Straub declined to comment on the lawsuit because it is an ongoing case.

Crawford and eight current or former jail staff members filed a lawsuit against the city in 2006, court records state. The plaintiffs, who represented more than 300 current and former employees, accused the urban county government of violating labor laws such as withholding overtime pay and depriving them of meal and rest periods.

The employees and the city reached a settlement in October. The employees received $805,000 and 2,530 days of paid leave time, according to court records.

Crawford says that settlement prompted his supervisors to retaliate against him.

In May, Crawford was suspended without pay for 40 hours for allegedly violating an off-duty employment policy when he worked at the Collins Bowling Center, the suit says.

Crawford says in the lawsuit that he had worked off-duty at the bowling alley since Oct. 1, 2007, but he was not disciplined until after the October settlement.

Major Michael Korb recommended the suspension to jail director Ron Bishop. According to Crawford's lawsuit, both men testified on behalf of the city during the previous lawsuit.

Crawford describes two other incidents in the lawsuit that he says were retaliatory.

Crawford received a verbal warning after he allowed employees to bring food into the prisoner intake area on Thanksgiving last year, according to court records. He was also reprimanded for parking his vehicle in a restricted area.

According to the lawsuit, other employees who also allowed food and parked in the area did not receive reprimands.

The city "willfully, deliberately, intentionally" violated labor laws by taking "adverse employment action" against Crawford, the lawsuit states.

The disciplinary actions that Crawford's supervisors took will affect potential promotions and job transfers, said Crawford's attorney, Tom Miller.

"It's basically affected his ability to do his job," Miller said.

Crawford is seeking compensation and the removal of the disciplinary actions from his personnel file.

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