BEDFORD - Two former Bedford County Prison guards have sued the county for civil rights violations, alleging that former warden Donald Orr - who resigned suddenly in June amid a secretive investigation - demonstrated blatant sexism against female employees.
The lawsuits, filed July 2 in the state's Western District Court, name Lt. Tina Hillegas of Schellsburg and Lt. Gloria Sadler of Fishertown as plaintiffs, represented by Pittsburgh-based attorney Lawrence Chaban.
In court filings, Chaban alleged that Orr gave male employees preferential treatment as soon as he was hired in 2010. When given the choice of a male or female guard for an assignment, Chaban said, Orr always picked a man.
Orr also allegedly said "prison was not a place for women" and repeatedly ignored Hillegas and Sadler when they spoke to him, according to the suit.
Hillegas began working at the jail in 2006, according to the documents; Sadler had worked there since 1997.
Hillegas' court filing states that Orr forced her to resign when he ordered her to perform "jobs that would have violated the law" and she refused. Sadler's filing said she left her job when work conditions became unbearable.
Sadler said that she attempted to speak with Orr in April 2010 after he had allegedly ordered her to work every weekend, despite her protests. When she approached him, Orr allegedly shoved his finger in her face and shouted, "You will work when I tell you to work."
Bedford County, not Orr, is named as the defendant in the lawsuits.
Chaban said in the court filings that, because county officials hired Orr and allegedly failed to address the women's complaints, the county's government is liable.
The suits indicate that county officials violated the federal Civil Rights Act and Pennsylvania's Human Relations Act. The lawsuits come roughly 10 months after the women's civil-rights complaints with the state's Human Relations Commission were closed, commission spokeswoman Shannon Powers said.
According to the court filings, Hillegas and Sadler are seeking an admission of guilt by county officials, pay adjustments to compensate for alleged discrimination, back pay and compensatory damages, as well as repayment of legal fees.
Chaban said a series of further filings will be necessary before the cases can move forward. At least three more Bedford prison cases are pending approval through the Human Relations Commission, he said.
The filings did not come as a surprise to county officials, Commissioner Steven Howsare said Wednesday.
"There were four or five different female employees who claimed they were discriminated against," Howsare said.
On Wednesday, Hillegas directed all questions to Chaban, who declined to comment on further case details.
Orr, of Hyndman did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Orr resigned suddenly in June, several weeks into a paid suspension and a county investigation against him.