Former Westmoreland corrections officer claims she was victim of racial discrimination
A former Westmoreland County Prison corrections officer claims she was the victim of racial discrimination when she was subjected to derogatory statements from co-workers and inmates, unwarranted discipline and erroneously blamed for an unnecessary inspection of cells.
Bonita Hughey, 53, of Jeannette, in a lawsuit filed in Greensburg, said her repeated complaints about the treatment she received from fellow jail guards, administrators and inmates went unanswered and because of her race she was subjected to a hostile work environment.
According to the lawsuit, Hughey, who is black, claimed she was a victim of racism almost immediately after being hired in March 2016. She claims she was singled out and intimidated by white male guards who falsely claimed she wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt under her uniform.
Hughey claimed she was frozen out by other guards and accused of “snitching” on co-workers. According to the lawsuit, she said jail administrators and the county’s human resources department did not take her complaints seriously or properly investigate the accusations.
County solicitor Melissa Guiddy said Monday the county would not comment on Hughey’s lawsuit.
According to county payroll records, Hughey was hired as a part-time guard and earned about $15 an hour before she was fired in July 2016.
In her lawsuit, Hughey contends she was fired after county officials accused her of causing an unneeded shake down of inmates after she falsely claimed she lost her dentures while on the job in the jail.
Hughey’s lawyer, John Newborg of Pittsburgh, wrote in the lawsuit Hughey did not wear dentures and her comment was a joke. Hughey claims she was never told an inspection of cells was ordered as a result of her statement.
“The shake down was not normal procedure under the circumstances and would not have occurred except for the fact that management wanted to blame the plaintiff for causing the shake down,” according to the lawsuit.
Hughey said she was assigned duties she was not trained to perform and scheduled to work undesirable shifts in retaliation for complaints she made against a supervisor. Hughey contended she was assigned to work midnight shifts in male inmate units during Pittsburgh Penguins hockey games, “when the conduct of the inmates was agitated, disruptive and more difficult to control.”
Hughey is seeking back pay and benefits lost after being fired more than three years ago, unspecified compensatory damages for emotional distress and punitive damages.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .