Jailer sued for alleged sexual harassment

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By Bryan Marshall

A former female employee has filed a lawsuit against Grant County Jailer Terry Peeples alleging sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.

Peeples denies the claims made in the lawsuit.
“As much as I would like to comment, I can not comment on this ridiculous and fraudulent accusation at this time,” he said.
Lee Ballard of Dry Ridge, who was hired by Peeples in February 2011 as a secretary at the detention center, filed the lawsuit Sept. 12 in Grant Circuit Court.

According to the lawsuit, Peeples began touching Ballard inappropriately immediately after she began her employment.
The allegations claim that Peeples initially would place his arm around Ballard’s neck and shoulders while in the office and employee break areas.

However, the jailer then started placing his arm around Ballard’s waist while she was making copies and performing other work duties, according to the lawsuit.
Ballard alleges that the physical touching by Peeples, which she said became disruptive to her work performance, gradually increased in frequency and intensity.

“Peeples would graze (Ballard’s) buttocks and breasts with his hands while he had his arm placed around (Ballard’s) neck and shoulders or waist,” according to the lawsuit.
Ballard alleges that the inappropriate touching happened “extremely often, if not on a daily basis and in front of other employees.”
The lawsuit states that Peeples also verbally abused and harassed Ballard by making comments about how often she shaved her legs, if she would wear mini skirts and short shorts when it became warmer and if she would get a pedicure and come to work in sandals.
The alleged behavior culminated in late May 2011, according to the lawsuit, when Peeples approached Ballard sitting in an outdoor break area, knelt down, took off Ballard’s slip-on shoe and grabbed her foot in both hands and said, “I’ve waited so long to suck on these.”
Ballard allegedly recoiled her foot and told Peeples not to touch her.
Within 48 hours, she again notified Peeples that his conduct was unwelcome and needed to cease.

According to the lawsuit, Peeples immediately began retaliating against Ballard the next scheduled work day by becoming “rude, short and/or unresponsive.”
In the week after Ballard’s rejection of Peeples alleged sexual advances, she received eight demerits when she previously had none.
The lawsuit also alleges that Peeples told other employees to not cooperate with Ballard regarding her responsibilities and he altered her work schedule to less desirable hours.
Ballard also alleges that Peeples had conveyed to her that she would be attending the Kentucky Jailer’s Association Conference in June 2011 before she rejected his advances.
However, the lawsuit states he took that privilege away from Ballard and said, “I am only going to surround myself with people that I like.”
While at the conference, Peeples required those employees who did not attend to be tested for drugs.

When Ballard submitted her urine sample to Captain Richard Clise, he allegedly looked at it and immediately said that Ballard was “positive for amphetamines” and the sample would be sent to the lab for official testing.
Before any results were obtained, the lawsuit states that Peeples and other employees declared that Ballard tested positive and she was in violation of the jail’s policies.
Despite repeatedly asking Peeples for the results every day for the next few weeks, Ballard says that she never received an answer.
Ballard received confirmation in July 2012, more than a year after she resigned, that there was never a positive drug test result for her.
According to the lawsuit, Ballard also expressed concerns about the monitoring and accounting of the jail’s inmate accounts and Class D canteen program.
Part of her responsibilities were to receive money orders in the mail and handle them briefly to give them to the employee responsible for the inmate accounts.
Upon expressing her concerns, the lawsuit states that Peeples blamed Ballard, claiming she was responsible for certain unsigned money orders that had gone missing.
Peeples later admitted the money orders were in his office, according to the lawsuit.
Ballard tendered her resignation on June 14, 2011, as a result of “her constant fear of being blamed for illegal conduct and due to Peeples’ persistent retaliation, harassment, abuse and defamation.”
“Peeples made the detention center a hostile, miserable work environment for (Ballard,) the lawsuit states. “(Ballard) felt completely overwhelmed by her employment situation to the point that she felt uncomfortable, anxious and depressed on a daily basis. (Ballard) also suffered from health problems due to her anxiety and depression caused by her employment at the detention center.”
Ballard is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.