Ala. corrections officer alleges verbal threats, job retaliation

Jennifer Cromartie, a CO at the Tutwiler women's prison, filed the complaint and a request for a jury trial on Aug. 7


By Melissa Brown
Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.

WETUMPKA, Ala. — An Alabama corrections officer has filed a job discrimination lawsuit against Alabama Department of Corrections officials over what she alleges to be a pattern of retaliation after she reported a fellow guard last year.

Jennifer Cromartie, a CO at the Tutwiler women's prison, filed the complaint and a request for a jury trial on Aug. 7. Cromartie alleges Tutwiler administrators have moved her to less favorable posts and cut back her overtime hours since she tried to report a fellow officer in December 2018. Cromartie is seeking to recover back pay she believes she would have made through overtime.

ADOC declined to comment on the pending litigation.

On Friday, Cromartie told the Montgomery Advertiser a fellow female CO threatened her in December 2018 after Cromartie, a supervisor, asked her to complete a task. Cromartie said the CO yelled at her and into her radio that someone should "come help (Cromartie) before something bad happens to her."

Cromartie, who said she knew the CO was armed and was alarmed at how quickly the situation escalated, hurried inside the facility. She later reported the incident to her superiors and to local police.

The warden agreed to schedule the two on separate shifts and in separate buildings so they would no longer have to interact. But in February, their paths crossed again, Cromartie said, and the CO had to be "physically escorted" away when she began yelling, "If I wanted to do something to [Cromartie], I could."

Cromartie alleges retaliation began in the form of unfavorable assignments and fewer hours after she said the warden violated "several ethical policies" in her handling of the initial incident.

Cromartie said she asked to be transferred, and she tried to discuss the situation with her superiors, to no avail. She was forced to see an off-site counselor, Cromartie said, over complaints about her "communication" skills. She said she had never received complaints about her communication skills before.

Days after filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May, wardens told her she was under investigation.

""Everything negative has fallen on me,' Cromartie said. "My name is mud, but at the same time, I haven't done any wrong. I haven't done anything wrong. Meanwhile, I have stuff in my (personnel file) that shouldn't be there. I just want to go to work like anyone else."

The EEOC has since reported it was "unable to conclude" that employment statutes were violated in Cromartie's case, though the finding does not prevent her from going forward with a civil suit. The case on Wednesday was referred to a U.S. magistrate judge.

©2019 the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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