by John Glidden | Bay City News Foundation | Aug. 28, 2021
This article was first published for the Bay City News Foundation.
VALLEJO – A veteran Solano County prosecutor has filed a lawsuit claiming her boss, District Attorney Krishna Abrams, retaliated against her after she requested to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sharon Henry, one of two chief deputy district attorneys in Solano County, filed the suit in federal court this week. Henry is seeking compensatory damages and a jury trial.
Reached for comment Friday, Abrams said it was “deeply disappointing” that a person she has known for “over 25 years as both a friend and a prosecutor would make false and disturbing allegations.”
“This lawsuit is puzzling as Chief Deputy District Attorney Sharon Henry was allowed to work from home for 6 months throughout the pandemic and remains employed today,” Abrams added.
Henry alleges she suffered race and age discrimination, retaliation, and harassment following her submittal of a telework agreement with Abrams in March 2020, according to the lawsuit.
“Although Ms. Henry was able to complete all her duties working remotely, the District Attorney stripped Ms. Henry of her job duties, giving away her supervision responsibilities and her prestigious capital murder case to other Deputy attorneys,” the suit states.
Henry said she began working remotely following a recommendation by her health care provider that she do so because of her diabetes, which put her life in great risk should she have contracted COVID-19.
That’s when all the trouble began, the lawsuit alleges.
Despite securing the telework agreement, Abrams “immediately began to take away Ms. Henry’s responsibilities,” and had other attorneys in the office begin to report to the other chief deputy district attorney, the lawsuit alleges.
Henry claims the retaliation continued a month later when her death penalty case was given to another lawyer. Then in June 2020 as Henry sought an extension to the telework agreement, another lawyer was made “acting chief deputy,” according to the lawsuit.
In July 2020, Henry was told to return to the office in September of that year, which she did and found out her duties had changed, the lawsuit states.
“To make it perfectly clear she had effectively been demoted, Ms. Abrams routinely met with Ms. Henry’s male replacements behind closed doors and did not acknowledge Ms. Henry for over a month after she resumed working in the office,” the lawsuit alleges.
Henry said two white, male attorneys were assigned her duties as a form of retaliation. Henry is Black.
“The work Ms. Henry has been assigned to is typically assigned to a line deputy, which has been done to intentionally punish her for requesting an accommodation and for protesting her illegal treatment,” the lawsuit alleges.
Last December, Henry complained to the county’s human resources department about the alleged discriminatory and retaliatory treatment she experienced. Henry alleges that’s when the retaliation increased, including when the office presented attorneys in the office with an award for working in the office during the pandemic.
Months later, an investigation into Henry’s complaint “found there was a violation of the County’s EEO Harassment/Discrimination Policy,” according to the lawsuit.
“Despite this finding, no further action has been taken to stop the discrimination and retaliation or to restore Ms. Henry’s responsibilities to her,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges that just this month Abrams demanded Henry sign a memorandum of counseling, dated from this May, accusing her of insubordination in April, according to the lawsuit.
“This was clearly retaliation after the independent investigator found the DA had behaved in a discriminatory manner,” the lawsuit states. “The DA demanded repeatedly that Ms. Henry sign the Memorandum of Counseling despite Ms. Henry making it clear she was not comfortable doing so. The County was informed of the DA’s behavior but has done nothing to stop or rectify the ongoing retaliation.”
Henry is represented by the San Francisco-based Nichols Law firm.