Fired deputy sues Sheriff’s Office

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A former Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputy has filed a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination against Sheriff P.J. Tanner and Lt. Brian Baird, according to court filings. 

Former deputy Selena Nelson filed the suit with the U.S. District Court on Nov. 1, citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and alleging discrimination “based on her sexual orientation, her failure to conform to female gender stereotypes, and her race.” 

Nelson, a black woman, served as a deputy for more than 13 years before being fired in August 2017 following a citizen complaint against her. The 21-page lawsuit says the complaint arose from Nelson’s interaction with a store clerk in Bluffton while she was off-duty but in uniform. The clerk accused Nelson of bullying him, and after an internal investigation led by Lt. Baird, Nelson was fired on Aug. 10.

The suit alleges Baird and Tanner used the complaint “as a pretext to ‘investigate’ and ultimately terminate” Nelson. It further claims that white male officers were not disciplined or fired for committing more egregious misconduct and outlines several instances. 

The suit requests Nelson be reinstated to her former position at salary and benefits levels comparable with the current pay scale and asks for compensation of damages including “humiliation, stress, mental anguish, embarrassment, and loss of enjoyment of life,” as well as economic damages, and attorneys’ fees.

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