JACKSON, Miss. — A sexual harassment lawsuit against the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics has been settled for $25,000.
The agreement between MBN and a former employee was made public Thursday after a federal judge approved the bureau’s motion to unseal the information, The Clarion-Ledger reported (http://on.thec-l.com/2co41NB ).
Mary Katherine Sullivan, who worked for MBN at the time, filed her lawsuit in September 2015 against the bureau and its deputy director Mike Perkins. The settlement was reached in June.
Sullivan’s attorney, G. Morgan Holder of Gulfport, said she is now working for a law enforcement agency on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The Mississippi Office of Homeland Security recently settled a former employee’s sex discrimination lawsuit for $75,000.
The office and MBN are both part of the state Department of Public Safety. In a recent interview with The Clarion-Ledger, Gov. Phil Bryant, who appoints the public safety commissioner, condemned sexual harassment and discriminatory behavior.
“It stops here. It’ll stop at this office going forward with all executive agencies, with any power and influence I have over other agencies that are in the state,” Republican Bryant told the newspaper. “We have to take responsibility if things are going wrong and obviously there are things that have gone wrong, and what I can do now is help remedy those, but make sure people understand this better not happen again. And I think they’ve got that message. If they have not you’ll see some career-altering decisions that will be made.”
Sullivan’s lawsuit accused MBN of sex discrimination, sex harassment and retaliation. She began working at MBN as an administrative assistant in 2005 and was moved to the intelligence division in 2007. Sullivan said she was hired as a special projects officer in 2014, which had a published annual salary range of $36,177 to $63,310.
Sullivan said despite an impeccable work record and a dramatic increase in responsibility, she was refused a salary above the minimum range. The lawsuit said throughout her employment, she was subjected to sexual comments, dirty jokes and sexual propositions by Perkins.
Sullivan’s lawsuit said Perkins, in her presence, would rank potential female employees he was interviewing for employment with a sexually motivated number system, with the higher the number the more physically attractive to him. She said it was widely known at MBN as the “Perkins Scale.”
Perkins retired Aug. 4 and has not responded to requests for comment about the lawsuit.
Rusty Barnes retired as head of Homeland Security in August, months after the state reached the $75,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed in 2015 by Penny Nichols Corn, and efforts to reach him for comment have been unsuccessful. The suit said Corn started work at the Office of Homeland Security in September 2007 applied to become deputy director in 2014. The suit said Barnes told her he wouldn’t consider her for the promotion because “the men in the field would not respect” her.
“When Plaintiff asked him why, he said, because she was a woman,” the lawsuit said.