The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office is facing a lawsuit filed by a former employee claiming “unlawful employment practices” by the Sheriff’s Office when he allegedly asked for a leave of absence for medical reasons and was instead put on administrative leave and then forced to resign.
According to a complaint filed Feb. 8, Gregory Sage began working for the Sheriff’s Office as a detention officer at the county jail in the early 1990s. Several years later, according to the complaint, Sage completed police academy and eventually became a lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Office for several years.
In 2010, Sage became jail administrator at the Blaine County Correctional Facility, and it was in that role that he experienced a traumatic event, he claims.
According to the complaint, Sage witnessed an inmate at the jail commit suicide by jumping off a second-story railing and landing just a few yards in front of Sage headfirst, cracking his skull and dying in 2017. According to a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, no such incident occurred in 2017, though an incident of that description did occur in 2014, as reported by the Idaho Mountain Express on June 18, 2014.
“At no point did [Blaine County Sheriff’s Office] or its agents instruct, suggest or request Plaintiff speak to a mental health professional despite knowing the significant mental and emotional toll this had on him,” the complaint states. “Rather, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office ignored the traumatic event and went back to business as usual.”
The complaint alleges that Sage began experiencing symptoms of “severe depression that adversely affected several cognitive functions,” including simple tasks such as clocking out at the end of his shift. At some point after he began experiencing these symptoms, the plaintiff was accused by an undersheriff of intentionally failing to clock out, the complaint states.
“Despite being informed of the Plaintiff’s mental status and being aware of Family Medical Leave Act requirements, [the undersheriff] placed Plaintiff Sage on administrative leave,” the complaint states.
Three days later, Sage “signed the resignation paperwork given to him by Defendants, under duress, coercion, and threat of inability to continue work in the law enforcement field.”
Soon after, the complaint states, Sage was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Idaho Mountain Express made several unsuccessful at-tempts to reach Sage’s attorney for further comment on the lawsuit.
The civil lawsuit was listed as an agenda item under executive session on the Blaine County commissioners’ June 18 meeting. No actions resulted from the agenda item, according to Commissioner Angenie McCleary.
On June 18, a summons was issued to the county, giving it 20 days to file a written response to the lawsuit.
According to Blaine County Sheriff Steve Harkins, Sage was hired by the Sheriff’s Office in 1990, and resigned in 2005, and then was again hired in July 2010 and resigned on Feb. 9, 2017. Via email, Harkins said he could not comment further as to reasons for Sage’s resignation.