Top Courthouse Officials Accused of Sex Discrimination

Lawsuit says Probation Department was run like “boys club”

Oct 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm

A 20-year veteran of Hamilton County’s probation department says she was denied a promotion after advising another woman to file a sexual-harassment claim against a boss on the county’s payroll at the time. Cassandra (Casey) DeNoma’s sex-discrimination lawsuit was filed Friday in Cincinnati federal court. She described the county probation department as a male bastion where female probation officers are treated as second-class workers and that she suffered retaliation “for opposing discrimination and encouraging others to exercise their right to be free from acts of discrimination.” The probation department is controlled by the county’s judges and supervises offenders who are not sent to jail after being convicted of committing crimes. This year, the probation department has a $6.7 million budget, including a $1.7 million state grant that is supposed to save money by keeping people under local supervision rather than sending them off to prison.

DeNoma, who is supervisor of the county’s Intensive Supervised Probation unit that operates under the state grant, claims she hit a glass ceiling when she applied to become No. 2 under former Court Administrator Mike Walton, who recently retired. Walton had been in charge of the probation department. Said DeNoma:

“Under Walton’s command, the probation department has strongly resembled a ‘boys club’ in that preferential treatment is given to men in appointments, assignments, and work conditions. For instance, male supervisors are granted unrestricted access to the department’s computer sites; females are not. Male supervisors are also permitted to dress less formally and are provided larger badges than females to reflect their positions and level of authority within the department.”

DeNoma said she was treated less favorably than men and claimed that she was excluded from meetings and shut out of strategy sessions. She said she could not get performance evaluations of herself, while men did. She said that she advised another probation officer to file a sex-harassment claim against a superior “whose behavior had escalated to a point where she feared him.” DeNoma contends she was passed over for promotion to assistant chief probation officer due to her involvement in the sex-harassment matter.

The lawsuit is Cassandra DeNoma v. Hamilton County, Case No. 1:12cv831. County officials have not yet had time to respond to the allegations. The case seeks a judgment forcing the county to appoint DeNoma assistant chief of the probation department. It also seeks economic damages, plus punitive damages to be awarded at trial. DeNoma is represented by Cincinnati lawyers Marc D. Mezibov and Susan L. Butler.