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A Jackson County Jail Employee Says She Was Put On Leave Because Of Her Underwire Bra

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Jackson County Jail employee Charlotte Hardin, center, has been on administrative leave for four weeks after taking off her bra and putting it in the X-ray machine on her way into work.

After her underwire bra set off the metal detector at the Jackson County Detention Center one morning, jail employee Charlotte Hardin removed it and sent it through the X-ray machine. Four weeks ago, she was put on leave after being told she wasn’t allowed to place undergarments in the X-ray machine.

The veteran employee of the jail has not been given a return date.

"This woman has worked for the county for 20 years. She deserves better than this," said attorney Katherine Myers. 

Hardin was moved to tears Friday as Myers described her client's predicament.

“This is hard for her. Her personal life and personal experiences, and a lot of women’s ... this drudges up a lot of emotion and pain. That’s what discrimination does at the end of the day. This is an issue of equality,” Myers said.

On behalf of Hardin, Myers filed a charge of sex discrimination and retaliation with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

Up until now, only attorneys have spoken out about what they consider sexist security protocol, which quietly went into effect mid-May

In response, jail officials have only doubled down on the importance of their policy.

In June, Jackson County Department of Corrections Director Diana Turner told KCUR "360 employees, vendors and contractors here at the jail have managed to get through the screening." 

She echoed that sentiment at a legislative meeting last month, saying her employees hadn't had any issues abiding by the new policy and clearing screening.

But, Myers said, Hardin is just one of "numerous female employees" prohibited from entering the detention center because of an underwire bra, though she could not say how many.

"This is not just an attorney problem, this is a female issue," Myers said.

At last month's meeting, legislators urged Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté and the attorneys to meet and find a solution, but that meeting has yet to happen. 

Attorneys Molly Hastings and Tracy Spradlin said they had set a meeting a few weeks ago, but Forté failed to show up.

"This is something that could be corrected immediately, with a secondary security policy that we can all agree on, with ideas that we have all suggested that have fallen on deaf ears," Hastings said. "The resistance to resolution is what's so baffling to me."

Neither Forté nor Turner immediately responded to KCUR's request for comment Friday.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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