HUNTINGTON – A former Cabell County deputy sheriff is claiming, in a federal lawsuit, that she was “unlawfully terminated” from her job.
Lt. Patrice Lambert, who worked as deputy sheriff for the county for nearly 30 years, was fired in August 2012.
In her 12-page complaint, filed Aug. 4 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia in Huntington, she points to Sheriff Tom McComas, who assumed office in 2009.
McComas, the Cabell County Commission, the Cabell County Sheriff’s Department and Chief Deputy Doug Ferguson all were named in the suit.
Lambert claims McComas told Commissioner Bob Bailey he didn’t want any women on the force.
“Well, I was standing out in the hallway by the commission chambers, and I said, ‘Why don’t you consider hiring a couple women deputies, because you don’t have but one and it’s hard for her to search all of them women prisoners and things you’re bringing in here?’ His (McComas’s) reply to me was that he didn’t want any women in uniform around him,” Bailey said in sworn testimony.
Lambert claims that McComas’s reason for firing her was because she failed to pass a firearms test.
However, Lambert contends McComas didn’t enforce the policy, and that there are no firearms records to evidence.
She also argues that male officers were given more attempts to pass the test and even encouraged to cheat.
She claims the defendants’ reason for discharging her, along with a female home confinement officer, was “pre-textual” and a “cover-up.”
Lambert contends the defendants also were motivated to fire her because, in the previous months, she filed and resolved a charge of unlawful discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Plus, she had been named a witness to a female home confinement officer’s charge of gender discrimination, which was filed with the EEOC after her own unlawful termination.
Lambert, in her complaint, goes on to charge that Ferguson “created” at least three memos regarding firearms qualifications that did not previously exist.
“The creation of the memos was fraudulent and an attempted cover-up for the discrimination and retaliation that had occurred,” her complaint states.
Lambert claims that, as a result of the defendants’ conduct, she has suffered lost wages and benefits, lost retirement benefits, emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment and ridicule.
She is seeking damages, including punitive damages, attorneys fees and costs, and that she be reinstated or be awarded unmitigated front pay.
Maria W. Hughes and Mark Goldner of Charleston law firm Hughes & Goldner PLLC are representing Lambert.