WAUPACA, Wis. (AP) — Federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit Monday accusing Waupaca County of discriminating against a female sheriff’s deputy by promoting a less-qualified male candidate over her.
Julie Ann Thobaben, a 16-year veteran of the Waupaca County sheriff’s department, was told she couldn’t be promoted because of the county’s nepotism policy, according to the lawsuit. However, the department ignored that policy in at least eight other cases where men were promoted, court documents said.
The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. It asks that Thobaben be promoted with back pay and interest, and also seeks unspecified compensatory damages.
A message left with the county Monday was not immediately returned.
According to the lawsuit, Thobaben was hired as a dispatcher in 1995 and promoted two months later to become the department’s first female patrol officer. She married a fellow patrol officer the following year.
In 2006 she applied for a detective sergeant position, a job that eventually went to a man. The county said it couldn’t promote Thobaben because of a policy preventing Waupaca County workers from supervising a member of their immediate family, the lawsuit said.
However, patrol officers such as her husband are supervised by patrol sergeants, not by detective sergeants, the lawsuit said. Prosecutors also said the county ignored the nepotism policy in at least eight other cases that benefited men.
Waupaca County, which is in central Wisconsin, has about 54,000 residents.