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$8,500 Settlement in Allegheny County Jail Sexual Harassment Suit

by David M. Reutter

Officials in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania paid $8,500 to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by a former female guard.

Tanisha Ramsey started working at the Allegheny County Jail on June 30, 2015. While being trained, she “began to be subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment from Major Robert Bytner.” His advances included following Ramsey on camera, sending her inappropriate text messages, asking her for pictures (including to see her in a bikini) and inviting her over to his place to swim alone.

The harassment continued until Bytner was terminated in November 2015. Ramsey’s complaint alleged that “Allegheny County was fully aware of Mr. Bytner’s propensity for sexually harassing female employees” at the jail.

After Ramsey complained about the sexual harassment, she was moved from pod duty to a less desirable position of phone duty. She was told by administrative officials that she would remain on phone duty until she stated in writing that she was satisfied with her work environment. Ramsey’s complaints resulted in “harassing and hostile comments” from other employees, she claimed, and a captain told her that if she wanted to keep her job, she should “keep her mouth shut.”

Ramsey’s last day of work at the jail was on June 11, 2016. She filed suit in early 2018 and the parties reached a settlement on September 11, 2018, in which Ramsey received $5,295 and $3,205 was paid to the NDB Law Firm, which represented her. See: Ramsey v. Allegheny County, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Penn.), Case No. 2:18-cv-00071-CRE.

Guards are not the only ones subjected to unwanted sexual advances at the Allegheny County Jail. In August 2019, an unidentified female prisoner, who was pregnant at the time, claimed in a federal lawsuit that she was sexually assaulted by her cellmate after guards shut off the intercom system in her cell so she could not call for help. She is raising claims of deliberate indifference by jail staff and improper training; her complaint alleges jail officials tolerated sexual abuse by failing to discipline staff who refused to intervene, which “created a culture whereby rapes, sexual assaults and sexual harassment of inmates could not only continue, but were both tolerated and permitted.” 

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Additional source: post-gazette.com