Federal prison employee names U.S. AG in EEO case

By Kelly Holleran | Dec 3, 2009

GILMER – A Federal Bureau of Prisons employee says US Attorney General Eric Holder needs to pay damages for an EEO decision stating the employee did not suffer harassment while working at a federal prison in Gilmer.

Kimberley Thorpe filed a lawsuit Oct. 19 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia against Holder, the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Thorpe, a senior officer at the Federal Correction Institute in Gilmer, claims she began working a morning shift with another senior officer, Richard Miller, in July 2006. Soon, Miller became obsessed with her and became upset if she talked to any other employees at the institution, according to the complaint. Miller even started to call in sick on the same days Thorpe used her sick leave.

Miller asked Thorpe to begin dating him and to move in with him, the complaint says. Occasionally, Miller presented Thorpe with small presents.

Not liking Miller's behavior, Thorpe reported the alleged harassment to her lieutenant, James O'Pry, who then informed Captain Matthew Arnold of Thorpe's complaints, the suit states.

"On October 13, 2006, Officer Miller assaulted Plaintiff while both were working at FCI-Gilmer, and Officer Miller told Plaintiff that he had heard Plaintiff had been complaining to Captain Arnold about him," the complaint says. "Officer Miller slapped Plaintiff on her face and walked behind her and placed Plaintiff in a headlock.

"Officer Miller then placed both of his hands on Plaintiff's neck for a short time and squeezed her shoulders while making a moaning sound."
Undeterred, Thorpe reported the incident to Lieutenant Matthew Whimnery the same day.

On the following day, Thorpe visited a doctor for pain in her neck and wore a neck brace. Because of her inability to return to her previous position, Thorpe had to accept a light-duty assignment as a phone monitor, she claims.

Thorpe's complaints earned her a meeting with Acting Camp Administrator Todd Figiel, the institution's psychologist and an associate warden. During the meeting, the attendees promised Thorpe they would remove Miller after an investigation into the matter. Two days later, they pulled Thorpe from her post and issued her a cease and desist letter, according to the complaint.

Top officials never removed Miller from his post, so he continued to harass Thorpe. She repeatedly issued complaints to her superior officers, but still Miller's harassment continued as no one would address Thrope's complaints, the suit states.

"FCI-Gilmer's failure to respond to Plaintiff's continued complaints of harassment was in retaliation for Plaintiff filing internal complaints and complaints with the EEO," the complaint says. "FCI-Gilmer made false investigations about Plaintiff bringing drugs into the facility and for having sex with inmates as retaliation for Plaintiff having filed internal complaints and complaints with the EEO."

An EEO decision issued Sept. 30, 2008, stated the record failed to establish that the Federal Bureau of Prisons subjected Thorpe to a hostile work environment and that management officials at the Gilmer Institution had not retaliated against Thorpe, she claims.

Now Thorpe requests the fact-finder issue her non-pecuniary damages, plus attorney's fees and other relief the court deems just.

Barry L. Bruce of Barry L. Bruce and Associates in Lewisburg will be representing her.

U.S. District Court case number: 1:09-cv-141

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