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Allegheny County pays $8.5K settlement to former jail guard over sexual harassment claims

| Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, 1:27 p.m.
The Allegheny County Jail in Downtown Pittsburgh on Monday, February 25, 2013.
The Allegheny County Jail in Downtown Pittsburgh on Monday, February 25, 2013. Tribune-Review

Allegheny County has paid a $8,500 settlement to a Pittsburgh woman who says she was sexually harassed by her boss while working at the jail in 2015.

Tanisha Ramsey, in a lawsuit Ramsey filed in federal court in January, accused Robert Bytner, a major at the jail at the time, of repeatedly sexually harassing her during her first few months working as a guard.

Bytner watched Ramsey on camera while she was working, sent inappropriate texts to her personal cellphone, asked for a photo of her in a bikini and asked her to come over to his house to go swimming, the lawsuit said.

Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs declined comment on the settlement. Bytner did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Ramsey reported the sexual harassment multiple times, including in writing in October 2015, and verbally to Warden Orlando Harper and Simon Wainwright, who was a deputy warden at the time, the lawsuit said. After reporting the harassment, officials moved Ramsey from pod duty to phone duty, which is considered to be less desirable, the lawsuit said.

During a meeting in October 2015, Harper told Ramsey she would have to stay on phone duty until she said she was comfortable with the possibility of working under Bytner’s supervision, the lawsuit said.

Ramsey was among at least three woman to file sexual harassment complaints against Bytner. Former Deputy Warden Monica Long filed a sexual harassment complaint about Bytner in September 2015. Then Ramsey filed her complaint a month later. Bytner was fired from the jail in November 2015 for allegedly sexually harassing another guard named Euwanda Eubanks, according to a lawsuit Bytner filed after he was fired.

A federal judge last month dismissed a lawsuit Bytner filed after he was fired that alleged reverse race and gender discrimination, age discrimination and a violation of his right to due process.

In June 2016, a supervisor told Ramsey to work in a mental health pod, where some inmates were on suicide watch, even though she was not trained to work in a mental health pod, the lawsuit said. While she was working the pod, one inmate on suicide watch was improperly released, the lawsuit said.

Ramsey quit soon after. She filed an EEOC complaint in July 2016 against the county for unlawful treatment, and received a “right to sue” letter, the lawsuit said. A “right to sue” allows a person to file a lawsuit in state or federal court within 90 days, an EEOC spokeswoman said.

After filing a charge of discrimination, county employees “began relentlessly harassing Ms, Ramsey, trying to coerce her to sign and submit certain paperwork,” including coming to her house uninvited, the lawsuit said.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Theresa at 412-380-5669, or via Twitter @tclift.

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