Former Wood County Sgt. Della Matheny has filed a lawsuit against the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, Wood County Commission, and Sheriff Steve Stephens, claiming Stephens created a hostile work environment by sexually harassing female employees. She also alleges that she was retaliated against after she participated in a third-party investigation following a formal complaint by another female deputy in the department.
According to the lawsuit, Stephens began making inappropriate comments to Matheny about her appearance starting in 2012 and even went as far as sending Facebook messages to her ex-husband, inquiring about her sex life.
Stephens was elected to lead the Wood County Sheriff’s Department in 2018. The suit states that at this time, he sexually harassed another female deputy by inappropriately touching her and making offensive comments about her to Matheny and others in the department. The suit alleges that Stephens became obsessed with this deputy and sent her boyfriend, who also worked in the department, to a 16-week academy with the goal “to break up their little family.” Matheny claims all of Stephens’ actions created a hostile work environment that violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act.
The suit also states that the female deputy filed a formal complaint against Stephens to the Wood County Commission in March 2020. Law firm Bailey & Wyant, PLLC was brought in to investigate the complaint. The complaint alleges Matheny was interviewed in the investigation, which determined the Wood County Commission needed to conduct sexual harassment training for its employees. This never occurred and Stephens was permitted to continue leading the department.
According to the lawsuit, Stephens began falsely reprimanding Matheny following her participation in the third-party investigation. He also micromanaged her movements through her cruiser’s GPS system. The escalation of the hostile work environment forced Matheny to leave the department on July 23, 2021. The suit claims that Stephens’ treatment of Matheny following the investigation violates the West Virginia Whistleblower Law.
Matheny is represented by attorneys Todd Bailess of Bailess Law Firm and Bill Merriman of Bill Merriman Attorney at Law PLLC.
The lawsuit is Della D. Matheny v. Wood County Commission, a political subdivision of Wood County, Wood County Sheriff’s Department, a division of the Wood County Commission, and Steve Stephens, Cause No. 21-C-286 in Wood County, West Virginia.
The attorneys at Bailess Law Firm have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace. The West Virginia-based law firm takes pride in helping restore dignity and bringing hope to workers who have been subjected to unlawful employment practices.