A Black corrections officer at the Lehigh County Jail claims she was forced out of her job after complaining about racism in the workplace, including the placement of hot sauce packets in her mailbox.
Brielle Allen said the hot sauce packets from a Popeye’s fast food chicken restaurant were placed in her workplace mailbox in September 2018 “as direct provocation related to her race,” according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
It says her supervisor said loudly within her earshot, “I’m not attracted to Black women and I wouldn’t date one,” in May 2020. She said she filed written complaints over both incidents.
Her hostile work environment took its toll and she missed work from Sept. 18 through Sept. 21 due to ongoing anxiety and depression, the lawsuit says.
She returned to work with a doctor’s note asking that she be moved from the night shift to the day shift so she could sleep better and could improve her mental health. Instead, she was placed on administrative leave and then terminated on Oct. 1, 2020, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit names Lehigh County Jail and Lehigh County as defendants. Emailed messages to Lehigh County solicitor Thomas Caffrey, Director of Corrections Janine Donate and Warden Kyle Russel weren’t returned Wednesday.
The lawsuit says Allen started working in the prison April 27, 2015. Allen lives in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, the lawsuit says. It says she’s also known as Brielle Collins.
It says she was disciplined harshly for minor infractions such as leaving her post without permission and falling asleep at work due to her condition. It says white officers weren’t written up for similar infractions.
She accuses Lehigh County of failing to accommodate her disability, of discriminating against her and for retaliating against her claims of racism.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court on Sept. 7, 2021, by Doylestown attorney Andrew D. Cotlar. He seeks at least $150,000 in damages.
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