Alcorn County sheriff’s response denies harassment

news_court_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Attorneys have filed a response to a lawsuit brought against the Alcorn County sheriff by a former employee who claims she endured sexual harassment, a sexually hostile work environment and retaliation against her in the workplace.

Documents filed in federal court in Aberdeen by the Jackson law firm of Daniel Coker Horton and Bell deny all allegations made by Michelle Cohoon-Loyd in her lawsuit reinstated by the court in July.

The law firm is representing Sheriff Charles Rinehart and also Alcorn County.

The filing says both Rinehart and the county:

• “had legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons for making any employment decision(s) regarding (Cohoon-Loyd).”

• “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct any sexually harassing conduct of which they were aware, and (Cohoon-Loyd) unreasonably failed to take advantage of preventive or corrective measures or to avoid harm otherwise.”

• “alleged conduct was not malicious, willful and wanton, or grossly negligent, and was neither objectively nor subjectively offensive, and was neither severe nor pervasive, and was not unwelcome.”

Defendants’ attorneys further say that Cohoon-Loyd:

• “was never subjected to adverse employment action, as she voluntarily relinquished her employment from the Alcorn County, Mississippi Sheriff’s Department.”

• “has failed to mitigate her alleged damages and/or alternatively, any interim earnings received … (including but not limited to unemployment compensation and benefits) are a setoff to any attempt to secure an award of back pay or other form of damages; and to the extent (Cohoon-Loyd) has failed to mitigate her damages, there can be no recovery for damages that could have been mitigated.”

Several other responses and defenses listed in the court filing refer to matters of state law.

Cohoon-Loyd had worked in the sheriff’s office for about six years, until Aug. 23, 2012, as administrative assistant to the sheriff.

Her lawsuit, which is one side of a legal issue, claims that Rinehart – her direct supervisor – on two specific occasions in June 2012 and August 2012, tried to kiss her by force and otherwise sexually harassed her, subjected her to a sexually hostile work environment and retaliated against her in the workplace.

Cohoon-Loyd requested a jury trial and award of attorney fees, expert fees, court costs, damages and other relief as the jury may decide.