Essex prison supervisor sexually harassed me at work, says corrections officer in suit

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A prison officer at Essex County Jail has filed a discrimination complaint alleging a high-ranking supervisor sexually harassed her – giving her compliments, gifts and wads of cash – before to take revenge on her when she refused to have sex with him.

The woman alleges in the lawsuit that associate director Antonio Pires, 48, used his position to ‘manipulate and coerce’ her into a brief sexual relationship, then gave her unfavorable postings when she ended the job. the relationship.

Eventually, Pires began telling others at the jail that he wanted the woman fired, according to the lawsuit.

“She needs to be buried,” Pires reportedly said, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Essex County Superior Court.

The lawsuit also accuses another prison guard of being “generally aware” of the harassment and of “contributing to unlawful conduct” by sending the woman to work in “the worst” parts of the prison. “I don’t care about her,” the supervisor reportedly told other people.

NJ Advance Media is withholding the woman’s name because she claims to be a victim of sexual harassment.

Pires did not respond this week to a voicemail and email sent to him at the jail. Manager Guy Cirillo did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment.

Essex County spokesman Anthony Puglisi on Wednesday declined to discuss the case, saying the county was not commenting on ongoing litigation.

In a statement, the woman’s attorneys, Matthew Luber and Tyler J. Burrell, said they commended their client for the courage it took to file a lawsuit.

They believe that the woman’s colleagues at the prison will corroborate her allegations. “Our client is also looking forward to her day in court,” Burrell said.

The woman began working for Doremus Avenue Jail in Newark in 2021 and was quickly promoted to a managerial position, according to the lawsuit.

But when the woman refused to pursue a sexual relationship with Pires, she claims she found herself assigned to work in the prison’s inmate section – a less desirable job, the complaint says.

The woman was often transferred to detention areas – called “police custody” – during her regular shift, leaving no one to carry out her previous management duties, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit said Pires sent the woman inappropriate text messages, including asking her to send revealing photos.

On June 4, Pires allegedly bet the woman that she couldn’t resist laughing at a TikTok video. “You laughing, you need to send a picture of boobs,” he allegedly texted.

Pires also told the woman’s best friend that he was romantically interested in the woman, but the friend told Pires that the woman was not interested in him, the suit states.

“Pires sought to erode their friendship by claiming that (the) best friend was ‘into witchcraft’ and recommended that the plaintiff see a Santeria priest,” the lawsuit said. Pires at one point ordered the woman to drive with him “to consult a Santeria priest” about the friend he disliked, the suit states.

The lawsuit claims that even though the woman rebuffed his advances, Pires continued to ogle her and repeatedly commented on her appearance, often calling her “beautiful” and “gorgeous.”

She also claims that Pires texted her late at night professing his love for her. “Today was a productive day,” the supervisor reportedly sent her. “The only thing that would have been better if I stayed later and could see boobs.”

“What if I asked you to marry me with a ring (which costs) 3 times my ANNUAL salary,” Pires reportedly wrote. “Are you late to the wedding?”

The lawsuit says that throughout his employment, Pires “exercised authority” by mixing compliments and threats to his career. “You get the boot.” “I ship you.” “Just kidding,” were three of the alleged texts cited in the complaint.

Pires also tried to give the woman wads of cash totaling $9,000 so she could buy a used vehicle from a fellow car dealership owner, according to the lawsuit. The woman said she refused the money.

The suit says that on Valentine’s Day, Pires gave the woman flowers, chocolates and a teddy bear, and told her the gifts came “with a catch.”

“Plaintiff became increasingly concerned about her career and safety as (Pires) psychologically manipulated Plaintiff through the repeated sexual harassment and advances,” the suit states.

On June 20, the woman emailed her complaints about Pires to the Essex County Inspector General’s Officewho is responsible for investigating illegal, unethical or inappropriate behavior.

“All of this has caused me great anxiety, depression and fear,” the woman wrote. “I can go no further and so I bring this to you as my final escape and hope for survival.”

Luber, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, told NJ Advance Media on Wednesday that an internal investigation only began after he sent Essex County officials a letter threatening to sue on the woman’s behalf.

“There should have been an investigation a long time ago,” Luber said. “It’s too little, too late.”

Earlier this year, the woman went on sick leave. Her medical discharge paperwork, included with the lawsuit, says she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

In addition to sexual harassment and gender discrimination, the woman alleges a hostile work environment and retaliation. She is suing Pires, another supervisor, several unnamed people, and the county government.

The lawsuit asks a judge to award damages, as well as order his supervisors to undergo anti-discrimination, anti-retaliation, anti-harassment, workplace civility and other training.

Anthony G. Attrino can be attached to [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. To find NJ.com on Facebook.

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