Lt. June Johnson has worked at the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office since 1985. In a complaint filed two weeks ago with the EEOC, Johnson said she had been "subjected to gender harassment, sexual harassment, and race and age discrimination."
She said, "Over the years, I have been subjected to harsher scrutiny and disparate treatment as to my work schedule, work assignments and use of earned leave." Johnson talked about her history as a Sheriff's Deputy and the hostile work environment that eventually led to the filing of charges with the federal government last Tuesday in KFAI interview on Conversations with Al McFarlane. (http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/insightnews/conversationswithalmcfarlane/~5/sh9o_s_1vOs/10_01_13.mp3)
Johnson said she has experienced a hostile work environment from the beginning of her work career in the Sheriff's Department. She said she was proud, however, to wear the uniform, to be a member of the County's law enforcement organization, and proud of the positive responses she got from our community as a uniformed officer.
Johnson, a native Northsider, is a 1980 graduate of Mankato State University with a BS in Law Enforcement and a BS in Criminology, with a minor in Psychology and Sociology. She has had advanced professional training required for advancement in her field.
"When I was promoted to sergeant," she said in the KFAI interview, "I met with my supervising lieutenant and he told me all the reasons why I should not have been promoted. He gave his opinion as to why I was promoted – that it was because I was Black and female - then named people that he felt were more deserving than me – all white men. He told me I would struggle in my new assignment and that I would not make it. He did all he could to make that happen."
Johnson cited that conversation as an example of the incessant hostility she endured. "I loved my job. I wanted to be a good trooper, loyal to my profession, to my employer, and to my co-workers. So I just would not say anything about ongoing slights, disparate treatment, and harassment. I was a team player," she said.
It became clear to her, however, that in the Sherriff's Department, "people are dealt with based on fear and intimidation. There is a bully factor. There is a feeling that you have to go along to get along."
"The problem is systemic," Johnson said. "No one wants to be the one to speak out for fear of retaliation. There are others who are now or have in the past been subjected to similar treatment.
I hope that as a result of an outside investigation the issues will be publicly revealed and dealt with accordingly."
Reverend Jerry McAfee, pastor of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in North Minneapolis accompanied Johnson for the radio broadcast interview. He said "it is telling that when our people do all the right things....get the education, show up to work on time every day, work hard and honestly, demonstrate loyalty, competence and commitment to the public good....we still must suffer the intolerable bigotry and injustice at the hands of the "old boys" club."
"Our community has to put our arms around Lt. June Johnson and other Black law enforcement officers and show them how much we respect them and admire them for answering the noble calling of public safety." And, he said, "we have to protect them from injustice and maltreatment, even in the institutions of law enforcement and government that they serve."
Johnson said she attempted to follow the chain of command in voicing her concerns about mistreatment and discrimination. "I have exhausted all internal recourses. I have sought the assistance of Sheriff's Administration, Hennepin County Department of Diversity, and Hennepin County Human Resources. Each time I was met by resistance."
"I first met with the Director of Diversity. In that meeting she took no written notes and there was no audio recording. I asked her why she made no notes of my allegations. She said she would make notes "if" there were to be an investigation. I told her that I felt worse leaving the interview than I did coming in. I was not sure how that process was supposed to go, but I was sure that that was not it! There was no investigation," Johnson said. Hennepin County Human Resources Department did meet with Johnson for over two hour but said they found nothing to support Johnson's allegations. "I have email correspondence between myself and some of my harassers. I would call that supporting documentation," she said.
Following the County's findings, Johnson retained an attorney and on September 23, 2013 filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. "The Sheriff's Office has completely disregarded and dismissed any of my concerns and issues. They have failed to act upon my complaints. Since my complaint, they have left me to work in the same environment to deal with the arrogance and cockiness of the same individuals that I made the allegations of hostility and harassment against," she said. "My mental, emotional and physical health have suffered tremendously," she said.
"I have an impeccable work history. I have never been counseled. I have never been disciplined. I have never not done what was expected of me. I would think that after nearly 30 years of service I would be treated better than this," she said. There are over 300 sworn peace officers in the Hennepin County Sherriff's Department of which four are African American females.
Johnson worked in Juvenile Probation at Minnesota Correctional Facility at Red Wing before joining the Sherriff's Department. Before that she worked for Hennepin County Home School and earlier, Minneapolis Youth Diversion Program.