An 18-year veteran of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has until Friday to file an amended complaint in a yearlong lawsuit that’s accused Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and other supervisors of discrimination based on gender.
Amanda Ensor, a female sergeant who’s been with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office for nearly two decades, filed suit against the agency, county, sheriff and other supervisors in May 2020 for allegedly violating her medical leave rights and discriminating against her on the basis of gender. Among the relief requested, Ensor seeks reinstatement to her previous position, back pay, compensation for losses and attorney’s fees. Altogether she is seeking more than $600,000.
Ensor filed suit against the parties in May 2020, but in a March 25 order, U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander dismissed some claims made by Ensor and granted certain motions by the defendants. Jenkins, in his official capacity, still faces a count alleging disparate treatment based on sex/gender in violation of Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Ensor’s complaint centers on two periods of leave she took under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a law that allows eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.
In addition to the county, sheriff’s office and Jenkins, the lawsuit names Capt. Ronald Hibbard, Capt. Jason Null and Lt. Gregory Warner as plaintiffs, suing them in their individual and official capacities. In her March ruling, Judge Hollander dismissed the counts against the sheriff’s office itself, which the parties agreed is not a separate entity subject to suit, since county police departments are considered agents of the state.
“The sense of culture, coming from the top down, that pervades FCSO is one of discriminatory animus toward multiple protected characteristics, including sex,” Ensor’s complaint reads.
She further alleges Jenkins does not believe women should be in supervisory positions and speaks about women in a derogatory way.
“Understanding that this lawsuit is a year old and in litigation, I am limited to what I can say,” Jenkins told the News-Post via email. “I categorically deny Sgt. Ensor’s allegations of gender discrimination and retaliation or interference with her use of FMLA made in her lawsuit … I further deny Sgt. Ensor’s other accusations against FCSO supervisors and commanders.”
Ensor’s attorney, Janice Rockwell, said she and her client did not wish to comment.
Ensor has until Friday to submit an amended complaint to the court and has indicated in court records she intends to do so. The defendants’ responses are due June 4.
The crux of the suit stems from a situation in which Ensor participated in filming a prank arrest video with local YouTube personalities in September 2018, according to her complaint. Ensor suggested she and two other deputies appeared in the video to foster a positive relationship with the community, the complaint reads.
The sheriff’s office found fault with her actions and launched an internal investigation, charging Ensor with abuse of her position/unauthorized use of likeness, neglect of duty and incompetence.
“Sgt. Ensor arranged the video participation, which featured a staged arrest using uniformed on-duty deputies, under Sgt. Ensor’s supervision, and the use of marked Frederick County Sheriff’s Office vehicles,” Jenkins wrote in the email.
Court documents state the video was not approved by the sheriff’s office in advance.
As a result, Ensor was suspended without pay for 15 workdays, lost her take home vehicle for 30 workdays and was transferred from patrol to judicial services, court documents show.
Jenkins said via email that Ensor maintained the same rank and pay in her reassignment and that Ensor and the other deputies involved were fairly disciplined.
Ensor argues the discipline was a demotion and discriminatory, citing an instance where a male deputy was not punished for participating in another prank arrest. In a court filing, the FCSO responded by saying that the male employee’s scenario was “plainly dissimilar,” arguing he responded to an actual call for service and his encounter was not posted online.
Ensor left for surgery two days after the prank video, documents state. Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office began an internal investigation into her conduct.
Ensor was informed of the investigation while at home, and she said she was ordered to come into work for an interrogation while on medical leave, according to the suit. The FCSO countered in court documents that Ensor’s legal counsel offered to have her come in for questioning.
Ensor subsequently filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March 2019, which in February 2020 advised “review of the available evidence does not establish a violation” of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Ensor was issued a right to sue letter, documents show.
In March 2020, Ensor took leave for another surgery. She reportedly asked to work “restricted duty” afterward, but her request was denied, which allegedly “forced her to use sick leave to cover time off when she was capable of working a restricted duty assignment,” according to documents.
In her complaint, Ensor pointed to another male colleague who, allegedly, was permitted to work restricted duty after a surgery. In his email, Jenkins said there were no restricted duty assignments available in judicial services at the time.
The counts brought forth by Ensor allege violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, unlawful interference and denial of FMLA benefits due to transfer/demotion, violations of the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act, and discrimination/retaliation for taking FMLA leave.
A Miner Detail first reported on this story. The website's coverage can be found here.