Police Lieutenant fired after sexual harassment claims
FORSYTH, NJ– Forsyth County Sheriff’s department has fired Richard Holcomb, a 25-year veteran, amidst claims of sexual harassment allegations. On May 11, the Forsyth County Civil Service Board upheld the Sheriff’s office decision to fire Holcomb who had reached the rank of lieutenant at the time of his termination. After a presentation of evidence, the board found Holcomb had violated the sheriff’s office policy concerning workplace harassment by creating a hostile work environment.
Holcomb’s firing came after a month long investigation by the offices’ Internal Affair’s Unit. Investigation into Holcomb’s behavior began after a November 2016 incident involving Holcomb’s discriminatory conduct towards a female deputy (Claimant) and another incident from the summer of 2016 with another female deputy. Mike Garrison is the internal affairs investigator who oversaw the case. Garrison stated he was not aware of the incidents until January because then-Sheriff Duane Piper determined in November that there was not enough evidence against Holcomb to bring the claim.
The incident that sparked the investigation occurred last November. While working off duty, Holcomb invited the claimant to meet him close to a business in south Forsyth. After gossiping about the young lady who was the subject of the summer 2016 incident, Holcomb asked the female deputy if she would like to have casual sex. The deputy downplayed the incident and laughed it off as a joke. Soon after, Holcomb used the department’s internal messaging system to say he hoped she was not offended by the conversation and to let him know if she ever became interested in having casual sex with him.
The Claimant told her husband, but failed to report the incident to her superiors because prior administrations had not taken affirmative action in enforcing the workplace harassment policy. However, the claimant eventually reported the incident to her supervisor Sgt. Gary Clark. Once she told her sergeant, the complaint went up the chain to Sheriff Piper. After reviewing the evidence, Piper determined there was not enough evidence to substantiate the claims and wrote the complaints off as hearsay. Garrison stated that he thinks the claim should have reached Internal Affairs at that time. Garrison holds that a serious allegation such as those of the Claimant should be investigated no matter whether you feel there should be more information or not.
Upon investigation, the female deputy who Holcomb and the complainant were gossiping about during the November incident told Internal Affairs that she had similar encounters with Holcomb and she too had played the comments as a sexual joking. Internal affairs looked at both incidents and believe Holcomb displayed a clear pattern of violating the workplace harassment policy and placed Holcomb on paid administrative leave.
When an individual in a position of power makes sexual advances in the workplace, it often puts their subordinates in a difficult position. Should they report the incident, they face ridicule and isolation, should they fail to report the incident there is no telling when the harassing behavior will end. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from retaliating against individuals who report sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination. In order to bring a claim for retaliation, an individual must participate in a protected activity and if the employer retaliates against the individual for participating in the protected activity then the individual has a claim of retaliation. Protected activities includes, among other things, reporting sexual harassment or discrimination to a supervisor or HR. Wholesale reports of sexual harassment or discrimination do not automatically qualify as protected activity, an individual must have a good faith belief that discrimination occurred. Following the report, if the employer takes an adverse employment action against the individual as a result of their participating in a protected activity, such as a demotion, removal from an office or termination, than that individual may have a claim for retaliation.
The skilled New York City sexual harassment attorneys, working together with our talented Philadelphia sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, have years of experience litigating claims of workplace sexual harassment. We are dedicated to protecting the workplace rights and autonomy of our clients. We have recovered millions for our clients in sexual harassment suits. If you feel you have been sexually harassed at work, please give our talented New York City sexual harassment attorneys a call, toll free, at (800) 807-2209.
Call today to schedule a FREE sexual harassment or employment discrimination legal Consultation in NY, NJ & PA with one of our top rated employment law or sexual harassment attorneys here at the Derek Smith Law Group. You can reach us online or by calling . Our New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia labor & employment law attorneys handle a variety of cases involving sexual harassment, racial discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and other employment-related claims. We serve clients throughout New York, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. We also have offices in New Jersey and Philadelphia to serve you.
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