Horry police created hostile work environment, harassed ex-detective, lawsuit claims

Sun News file photo.
Sun News file photo. jlee@thesunnews.com

A former Horry County police detective says she was fired for complaining about a hostile work environment and now she is suing the agency.

Last week, former detective Suzanne Demarest filed suit against Horry County Police Department in circuit court.

According to the filing, Demarest started with the agency in 2001 and was considered an exemplary employee during most of her employment. That changed in 2013 when she filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and retaliation.

That suit was resolved in 2016.

Once that suit ended, Demarest says she suffered from retaliation and a hostile work environment.

Demarest eventually worked for the Criminal Investigation Department and noticed that nobody investigated abuse cases involving the elderly, according to the filing. Demarest took on those cases.

In 2016, Demarest says a sergeant screamed at her in a hallway over a case. A secretary who saw that exchange filed a complaint about the incident. Demarest also says she was harassed after she was written up for leaving a gun in her apartment with her daughter, the filing states.

A deputy chief told Demarest she had too many open cases, the lawsuit argues. Demarest requested help, but never received assistance. No other detectives were required to handle as many cases as Demarest without help, according to the suit.

Demarest claimed the deputy chief told her to close cases until she could work them, which she responded was illegal.

In early 2017, Demarest requested a transfer to the narcotics division, which was denied because “they did not want her over there and everyone knows why,” according to the suit.

In February 2017, she was fired and told her cases were not up to standard and she had two warrants in her car, the filing contends. But, Demarest said Horry County police didn’t follow its policies on checking her vehicle, signing off on her files and properly training the detective.

The suit calls the discipline “systemic and harassing” and retaliatory for her complaints and lawsuits.

Demarest says she was treated differently than other employees who committed worse acts and not disciplined. Those actions included an employee using excessive force on a handcuffed person and an officer who failed to provide information to the solicitor, she contends.

The lawsuit claims of a hostile work environment, sexual discrimination and retaliation. It asks for an unspecified amount of damages.

Horry County spokesman Kelly Moore said it’s county policy not to comment on pending lawsuits.