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 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.