A former sheriff's deputy who claimed that the work environment in the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office had been hostile to black women for decades has reached a settlement with the county over a federal sex and race discrimination complaint.
Under the agreement, Johnson dismissed the complaint she filed last year, and the county admits no liability. In the four-page settlement agreement required reached quietly in April, the county paid Johnson $21,000 to compensate her for emotional damages. In return, Johnson agreed to retire.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek does not comment publicly on personnel matters, spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said.
In a statement, the Sheriff's Office notes that "the settlement does not constitute an admission by the County of any wrongdoing or liability. Instead, the mutual agreement allows both parties to discontinue conversation and go their separate ways."
June Johnson also declined to comment on the settlement.
• Nov. 2013: Johnson complains of racial, sexual harassment
When Johnson filed her complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last fall, she had been on the force for 27 years. She said then that she had long been subjected to unfair treatment based on her race, gender and age.
Johnson, who is African-American, said in October that the problems started under a previous administration, but did not improve under Stanek.
"In my opinion, the Sheriff's Office completely disregarded and dismissed any of the concerns and issues that I had," she said then.
In her EEOC complaint, Johnson cited an incident she said occurred shortly after she was promoted to sergeant in 1998 — long before Stanek was elected in 2006. She said a male supervisor made a lewd comment about her body. Johnson said she told another supervisor about the incident, but the office did nothing until she and the sergeant who had harassed her were each transferred to different areas.
In 2011, Johnson said, the sergeant was transferred to the division she worked in.
"And the fact that, the Sheriff's Office would not even remove me from that — that tells me they did not take what I said seriously," she said.
Johnson said the county's human resources department investigated her claims, but found them baseless.
Not long after Johnson's story was broadcast on MPR News in November, her attorney at the time, Kathryn Engdahl, reported that Johnson experienced retaliation.
According to Engdahl, Johnson found a bull's-eye target commonly found at gun ranges in her work mailbox — with the word, "silence" written across the target. Johnson said she was placed on administrative leave while the Sheriff's Office conducted an investigation. However, she said the probe didn't find out who threatened her.
Johnson is satisfied with the settlement, said the Rev. Jerry McAfee, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, who helped Johnson announce her complaint to the public and has served as an adviser.
McAfee said he's spoken with a high-ranking official in the Sheriff's Office who assured him the officials there would address some of the matters Johnson had complained about.
However, he said Johnson feels hurt by the whole experience.
"I think she would have loved to have been able to leave under a different set of circumstances," McAfee said.