Kansas Highway Patrol trooper suing agency placed on administrative leave; no reason given

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
A female Kansas Highway Patrol trooper who has filed suit against the agency was placed on administrative leave last month, court documents released Tuesday show.

A female Kansas Highway Patrol trooper who has filed suit against the agency was placed on administrative leave last month, court documents released Tuesday show.

Six female troopers, all current and former KHP employees, alleged in the federal lawsuit filed in January that there was a hostile environment in the department, with top agency officials discriminating against female employees.

More:Female Kansas Highway Patrol staff allege harassment, retaliation in latest lawsuit against agency

On March 9, Capt. Amber Harrington, one of the women involved in the suit, was placed on administrative leave by the head of the KHP, Col. Herman Jones, a revised version of the lawsuit argued.

No reason was given for the move, the documents say, despite Harrington’s request for more information. Her leave was renewed in early April and her duties haven't been reinstated.

The updated lawsuit argues this is evidence of “adverse employment actions” that “were completed in retaliation for her protected acts in opposition to KHP’s discrimination.”

It is the latest in a series of accusations leveled against KHP’s work climate, with two former officers also suing the agency for alleged retaliation when they attempted to help women report the behavior of top officials, including Jones.

More:Fired Kansas Highway Patrol majors allege ‘hostile work environment,’ retaliation in federal suit

Investigations from the Department of Administration and an outside law firm last year cleared Jones of charges that he sexually harassed women, saying allegations against him could not be substantiated “due to the extremely strong likelihood of bias.”

But the lawsuit alleges the investigation was improperly handled and argues the identity of Harrington and two other women were revealed in the process, creating an opportunity for retribution.

Harrington said her supervisor gave her orders not expected of her male colleagues following the report’s release.

“You are intentionally setting me up for failure in an attempt to create the perception that I am incapable of performing my duties as a Captain,” Harrington wrote in an email to her commanding officer.

Jones, formerly the Shawnee County sheriff, was appointed by Gov. Laura Kelly in 2019. Kelly has stood by him amid the lawsuits, calling him the “right man for the job” after the DOA report was released.

A spokesperson for the Kansas Highway Patrol declined comment, saying the agency could not discuss personnel matters.