Former Fulton jailer says he was fired for being gay

A former detention officer at the Fulton County Jail is suing the Fulton Sheriff’s Office, claiming he was fired for being gay and faced retaliation after reporting an anti-gay coworker. 

Demarcus Harris filed the federal lawsuit on Dec. 30 against Fulton Sheriff Ted Jackson and three supervisors – Lt. Anthony Richardson, Lt. Temeka Cherry and Capt. Tyna Taylor.

The plaintiffs subjected Harris to “discrimination including disparaging remarks, adverse transfer and schedule changes, false accusation of misconduct and forcing [Harris] to work with an employee who had made discriminatory remarks about [Harris],” according to the lawsuit.

He is represented by attorneys Thomas Mew and Milinda Brown. Mew also represents Gerald Bostock, a man who claimed that Clayton County fired him for being gay. That case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in October.

Harris began working for the jail in March 2018. Three months later, a coworker told other employees that he did not want to work with Harris’ “gay ass,” according to the lawsuit.

When Harris complained to supervisors, he was transferred to a less desirable shift and location of the jail. A supervisor told Harris that the schedule change was for his own “safety,” according to the lawsuit.

Harris was allowed to return to his former schedule and location but continued working with the coworker who allegedly harassed him, according to the lawsuit.

Harris was then assigned to a jail facility at Grady Hospital in December. The move “adversely affected [Harris’] income due to increased expense and lesser overtime opportunities,” according to the lawsuit.

Harris later received permission from a county therapist and human resources officer for five days off to cope with stress from the situation. But his absence was treated as a “no call, no show,” and Harris received a written warning and faced increased scrutiny of his attendance, according to the lawsuit.

Harris was later fired for alleged attendance issues.

The lawsuit claimed that the sheriff’s office violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He is seeking punitive and compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees. He’s also seeking a permanent injunction barring the sheriff’s office from engaging in unlawful employment practices in violation of Title VII.

Tracy Flanagan, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, told Project Q Atlanta the agency does not comment on pending litigation. Flanagan confirmed that Harris was fired on April 4 while still a probationary employee.

Mew did not immediately respond to Project Q’s request for comment.

Mew represented Bostock in his case before the U.S. Supreme Court in October. A decision in that case is expected by June.

UPDATE | Mew told Project Q that Harris "should have never been subjected to discrimination and retaliation because of his sexual orientation."

"We intend to prove that, rather than taking steps to protect Demarcus from sexual orientation discrimination, the Fulton County Sheriff's Office responded to his complaint by disciplining, transferring and eventually terminating him," Mew said in a statement sent after this story was published. "We believe the Fulton County Sherriff's Office violated federal law and the United States Constitution and we look forward to presenting Demarcus' case."