Putnam Settles Lawsuit Over Jail Job

Woman says she was rejected because of assault allegation

The Putnam County Legislature on Tuesday (April 7) unanimously approved a $65,000 payment to end a lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed she was turned down for a corrections officer position because she earlier alleged she had been sexually assaulted by a co-worker at a state job.

The nine legislators, meeting through an audio connection because of social-distancing restrictions, voted without discussion to settle a lawsuit filed by Roxan Denton-Lotts in federal court last May against the county’s Personnel Department and the Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the jail.

In court documents, Denton-Lotts alleged that although she passed qualifying tests in 2017 during the tenure of former Sheriff Donald Smith, jail officers “unlawfully retaliated” against her because the year before she had reported being assaulted at an Office of Children and Family Services facility in Red Hook, in Dutchess County.

According to Denton-Lotts, she promptly informed the police and the center director, and an internal state investigation later found her allegation valid.

About nine months later, according to the filing, Denton-Lotts passed a civil service exam and Putnam notified her of an opening for a position as a corrections officer. On her application, she disclosed she had been sexually harassed at a previous job and, as required for the position, shared details of a divorce, according to her lawsuit.

Denton-Lotts alleged that in job interviews and during a lie-detector test, she was asked about her complaint and whether she had engaged in sex with any colleagues, whom she was directed to name. She also was asked, according to her lawsuit, whether she had ever filed a false report and was told a law enforcement agency had informed the county it believed she was lying. She said that Putnam officials repeatedly advised her to withdraw her application.

She said she heard nothing about the job for more than a month until her husband, a Putnam County employee, was allegedly told by a Sheriff’s Department officer that his wife was passed over because “something did not seem right,” the court filing stated.

On March 2, a federal judge approved the terms of a settlement, clearing the way for the Legislature’s vote. As is typical of court settlements, Denton-Lotts dropped her lawsuit and the county admitted no wrongdoing.

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