116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County and its sheriff’s office are paying a former deputy and his lawyers over half a million dollars to settle his assertions that fellow deputies belittled him for taking leave to help care for his newborn son.
Scott Becker initially filed a lawsuit against the county in January 2020 in Linn County District Court, but it was refiled in U.S. District Court in February 2020. In his suit, Becker said he took time under the Family Medical Leave Act to care for his child in 2018, but then faced harassment and retaliation from co-workers who didn’t want to fill in for him while he was out.
Under terms of the settlement, Becker will be paid $334,062 and Fiedler Law Firm in Des Moines will be paid $240,937, according to a document provided by the county. The county, in the deal, says it still disputes the allegations made by Becker and states he will not seek employment with the sheriff’s office in the future.
An employee of the sheriff’s office since 2011, Becker requested two weeks off from work in January 2018 under the FMLA, and then an additional eight weeks off from July-September 2018.
Even though the leave was approved by the office, Becker asserted that his co-workers and supervisors started harassing him as soon as they found out about it. They told him he should ‘'feel guilty and ashamed” for taking time off to care for his child.
Fellow members of the Linn County sheriff’s force put toilet paper and women's hygiene products in Becker's locker, and one deputy told Becker he removed a “bunch of inappropriate papers” someone had posted on his locker, the lawsuit stated.
The incidents resulted in disciplinary action for employees: three to four faced weeklong suspensions, and others received written warnings, according to Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner.
After Becker filed a formal complaint with the human resources department, Gardner launched an internal investigation and “at least one” training seminar on harassment was done. Gardner also emailed a revised harassment policy to the department, according to the lawsuit.
Later, Becker was interviewed by Douglas Duckett, a lawyer from Cincinnati, Ohio, that the county had hired to investigate the complaint. The lawsuit said the investigation confirmed almost all of Becker's allegations — finding that some of Becker’s fellow deputies had less respect for a man taking an extended leave to care for a child than they would for a woman.
Gardner previously told The Gazette the harassment was attributed to a ‘“perfect storm” during which the Linn County Correctional Center had been understaffed and employees were forced to work multiple 16-hour shifts during the week.
“Having the employee add to the number of vacant shifts added to the already overwhelming workload, even though taking the leave was clearly his right to do so,” Gardner previously told The Gazette.
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