MADISON COUNTY, Ala. -- A seven-year Madison County Sheriff’s Office employee has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Sheriff Blake Dorning along with sheriff’s office and county officials, making her the fourth person to file such a complaint since September.
Erica Cagle alleges she was routinely ordered to handle administrative duties after-hours without pay, was repeatedly harassed by a sheriff’s office maintenance supervisor, was frequently touched without her consent, was propositioned by a deputy and was routinely massaged without her consent by another.
Cagle, who worked as an accountant in the sheriff’s office, filed the federal lawsuit Tuesday and alleged there were problems from the outset of her employment. She joined the sheriff’s office in March 2010 and left in August 2017, according to the lawsuit.
“On or about Cagle’s first day of work, Sheriff Dorning told Cagle that she was going to be subjected to a male dominant work environment at the Sheriff’s Office,” the lawsuit claims. “Sheriff Dorning essentially told Cagle to be expecting a sexually harassing work environment. Sheriff Dorning warned Cagle, because she was going to be working in the main office, front office, that she would be experiencing things from the male employees who would be coming in and out of the office where she worked and that men do what men do.”
As in the other sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuits against the sheriff’s office, all filed by Florence-based attorney Michael Weathers, Cagle alleges after she was harassed she followed Madison County policy by relaying her complaints to her superiors and county human resources personnel. She claims she was retaliated against for speaking out.
She also alleges, as do the other complaints, that men in the sheriff’s office engaged in a wide range of sexual misconduct without being disciplined.
The lawsuit names Sheriff Dorning, former Chief Deputy David Jernigan, current Chief Deputy Kerry Phillips, deputy Mike Jones, Sgt. Brent Patterson, members of the Madison County Commission and leaders of the Madison County Human Resources office.
Among the allegations in the lawsuit:
- “Sheriff Dorning asked Cagle to, on a part-time basis and after hours basis, to make arrangements for deputies to perform escort services for funerals and security services for other events such as religious events. Sheriff Dorning told Cagle the Sheriff’s Office would pay the bill for her cell phone service.”
- “Both Sheriff Dorning and Chief Deputy Sheriff Jernigan even called and/or texted Cagle regarding such work when Cagle was out of town, on vacation, and out of the country. The part-time job assignments involved hours and hours of work for Cagle. Cagle was not paid for the part-time work assignments given to her by both Sheriff Dorning and Chief Deputy Sheriff Jernigan.”
- (Maintenance supervisor) Tim “Clark constantly harassed Cagle trying to get Cagle to go to bars with him, to go to restaurants with him, and to go out with him. Clark even tried to hook Cagle up with his son. Clark drove Cagle crazy. Clark would even come to the office where she worked. Clark sent inappropriate text messages to Cagle. Clark told an inmate who working in the fleet service/ maintenance shop that he (Clark) knew Cagle was (having sex with) the inmate. This was extremely inappropriate and highly offensive to Cagle.”
- “Deputy Mike Jones Deputy Jones frequently, if not almost daily, tried to get Cagle to agree to a time when he could give her a full body massage. Deputy Jones told Cagle he wanted to make sure she was going to be completely naked when he gave her the massages.”
- “Deputy Jones sent text messages to Cagle regarding the messages he wanted to give her. In one text message, Deputy Jones talked about back rubs and finding ‘a hiding spot’ in the Madison County, Alabama Courthouse in which these back rubs could take place.”
- “Frequently, if not almost daily, Deputy Jones would come to Cagle’s desk and massage her shoulders, touch and massage her neck, and touch and massage her head. This was disgusting to Cagle, unwanted by Cagle, unsolicited by Cagle, humiliating to Cagle, and demeaning to Cagle. This unlawful and unwelcomed touching on the part of Deputy Jones continued up to the time Cagle was no longer employed by Sheriff Dorning, the Sheriff’s Office, Madison County, and the Commission.”
- “Cagle witnessed the retaliatory adverse employment actions Sheriff Dorning, Chief Deputy Sheriff Jernigan, Madison County, and the Commission took against Investigator Marina Giacomina Garcia (“Investigator Garcia” and/or “Deputy Garcia”), Deputy Holt, and Deputy Greg Gray (“Deputy Gray”) when they complained about, reported, and opposed the violations of the law and the policies of the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Dorning, Madison County, and the Commission …”
- (Sgt. Brent) “Patterson’s office was right across from Cagle’s office. Sgt. Patterson is the uncle of Sheriff Dorning’s three children.
- “Frequently, if not almost daily, Sgt. Patterson would come to Cagle’s desk and massage her shoulders, touch and massage her neck, and touch and massage her head. This was disgusting to Cagle, unwanted by Cagle, unsolicited by Cagle, humiliating to Cagle, and demeaning to Cagle. This unlawful and unwelcomed behavior on the part of Sgt. Patterson continued up to the time Cagle was no longer employed by Sheriff Dorning, the Sheriff’s Office, Madison County, and the Commission.”
We've reached out to the Madison County Sheriff's Office and the Madison County attorney for a comment.
The county attorney declined to responded; we have not heard back yet from the sheriff's office.