CHARLESTON - A West Virginia State Trooper is suing the State Police after he says he was demoted because of alleged sexual harassment charges.
Douglas Gunnoe, a resident of Kanawha County, filed a suit April 6 in Kanawha Circuit Court against the State Police. Gunnoe was a first sergeant and claims he was qualified for a promotion to first lieutenant before he was demoted because of the alleged allegations.
According to the lawsuit, Gunnoe was advised in July 2004 that a female employee of the department wished to filed a formal compliant, indicating Gunnoe had made a comment containing sexual connotations, "all of which were in the context of jokes," Gunnoe claims.
The suit also says the comments were along the same lines as other officers and civilian employees were making on a regular basis.
According to the suit, Gunnoe was then counseled and advised to stop from making any "sexual references" in the presence of female members. Other than the counseling, no punitive action was taken with respect to Gunnoe's rank, pay scale or work location, the suit says.
On April 7, 2005, Gunnoe presented himself to the agency as the highest-ranking candidate on the first lieutenant promotional list, with vacancies pending at the Troop 4 headquarters in South Charleston, the suit says.
Prior to that day, female employees were interviewed about a new complaint, alleging that Gunnoe had engaged in comments of a sexual nature, which the suit claims were in response to other female employees initiation about personal matters.
Gunnoe claims in the suit that the comments were not unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, and were not intended to interfere with any work performance, or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
During the meeting with Superintendent David Lemmon, Gunnoe was presented with a "letter of intent," the suit says.
Gunnoe was confronted with the formal charges along with the letter of intent, and was advised that if he did not accept the discipline, Lemmon, would "give him something to grieve about and discharge him from employment," the suit says.
Gunnoe claims in the suit that the threat was excessive and using to place pressure on him. He was demoted in rank from first sergeant to sergeant and was transferred from his previous administrative position to a more active position, all of which he claims causes additional personal pain and suffering.
Gunnoe claims in a suit, filed by attorney Henry E. Wood III, that the department failed to follow its own internal policies with respect to notice of intent to discipline prior to actual discipline being imposed and threatened Gunnoe with excessive discipline in order to coerce an agreement.
As a result, Gunnoe claims has suffered economic loss, pain and increasing exacerbation to the work-related disability from which he suffered, breach of contract of employment, and has otherwise been deprived of civil and constitutional rights attendant to the disciplinary procedure.
Gunnoe seeks compensatory and punitive damages in an amount determined by a jury.
The case has been assigned to Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-670