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Federal lawsuit alleges sexual harassment, ‘dehumanizing’ treatment in Nevada sheriff’s office

Updated January 23, 2024 - 9:56 am

A husband and wife have filed a lawsuit against the White Pine County sheriff’s office, alleging sexual harassment, retaliation and a “dehumanizing” workplace.

In an 18-page federal complaint filed last week in Las Vegas, Shannel and George Head alleged that the sheriff’s office discriminated against them and forced them to resign in 2023.

Shannel Head, who worked in the office as a dispatch operator from 2018 through 2023, claims she was the victim of pervasive sexual harassment during her tenure.

The sheriff’s office is located in Ely, the seat of White Pine County, which sits along the central eastern boundary of Nevada.

The complaint alleges that in January 2023, sheriff’s office Captain Jamie Swetich “grabbed Mrs. Head and kissed her forehead three times.” He then tried to “kiss Mrs. Head on the lips,” but she “resisted” his advances.

The suit also states that Sgt. Rick Ashby “brazenly reached across her desk and further unfastened her blouse” upon seeing that “one of the buttons on Mrs. Head’s blouse had accidentally unfastened.”

None of the defendants has had an opportunity to respond in court to the allegations.

The sheriff’s office has not responded to messages left by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

A person who answered a phone call at the sheriff’s office said that Ashby and Swetich were no longer employed with the department.

Reached by phone, Ashby answered briefly, but hung up after a reporter identified himself. Swetich could not be reached.

The Heads further claim that Shannel Head’s supervisors denied her bathroom breaks and left her with “no choice but to use a garbage can” to urinate into while working her shift.

Shannel Head alleges that she was “forced” to resign in February 2023 because of “the sexual abuse and toxic hostile work environment in which (she) and her colleagues had for years suffered at the sheriff’s office.”

But even after she resigned, the suit states, Swetich called her “repeatedly,” which “forced” her to change her number “to avoid Captain Swetich’s continued stalking and harassment.”

George Head, a former deputy in the sheriff’s office, states he was “forced to commit a homicide” in the line of duty in 2021.

He alleges that, during the shooting, his police radio “malfunctioned,” which prevented other officers “from being timely dispatched to the scene and substantially increasing the danger to him.”

The suit states that the radio malfunction caused him “stress and related physical and mental symptoms.”

But when he reported the malfunction, his supervisors allegedly “failed to take any remedial action at all.”

George Head resigned in June 2023, “after years of watching Sheriff Henriod ignore the sexual allegations that Mrs. Head and the other female employees at the sheriff’s office were forced to suffer.”

Along with White Pine County and the sheriff’s office, Swetich and Ashby are named as defendants in the Heads’ lawsuit.

Henriod is not named as an individual defendant.

Ranojoy “Raj” Guha, the Heads’ attorney, stated that the sheriff’s office supervisors took no “remedial action” after Shannel Head’s complaints about the alleged harassment.

Contact Peter S. Levitt at plevitt@reviewjournal.com.

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