Lawsuit accuses Jackson County Sheriff of discriminatory and racist behavior

JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — It’s a bombshell lawsuit that alleges discrimination and a hostile work environment at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

The suit, which was filed by a lieutenant in the sheriff’s office, claims Sheriff Steve Rand discriminated against him and has been caught on audio recordings making racist, sexist, and homophobic comments.

“She may want to do it. But she’ll f*** it all up. Because she’s a scatter-brained c***,” said a voice in one of the recordings.

Attorney Jim Fett says that vulgar remark referencing a female judge comes from Sheriff Rand.

That audio clip is just one of nearly 20 clips recorded by Tommy Schuette, and given to 6 News by Fett.

“I’ve been an employment lawyer for 32 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Fett said.

He’s representing Schuette, who is a lieutenant in the sheriff’s office.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, they allege Sheriff Rand discriminated against Schuette because of a hearing disability.

Schuette says he lost some of his hearing going through explosives training on the SWAT team.

The lawsuit claims Rand taunted Schuette about his condition and threatened to fire him because of it.

“It’s a reminder that it’s important to be vigilant in enforcing the civil rights laws,” Fett said.

The lawsuit also says the sheriff has created a negative work environment by making inappropriate comments about disabled people, women, gays, and minorities.

The suit mentions multiple alleged occurrences of the sheriff making sexual remarks about female employees and sexually harassing Schuette.

“I thought you gingers stuck together with the blacks,” a voice attributed to the sheriff says in another recording.

According to the lawsuit, Rand is known to make racial and homophobic slurs.

“He refers to African Americans as monkeys, saying we ought to be stepping on their necks like they used to,” Fett said.

Multiple messages left for Sheriff Rand were not returned to 6 News.

Jackson County government is also named in the suit.

Schuette says county officials were dismissive when he brought these concerns to them, and he isn’t getting proper disability coverage.

The county sent a statement saying officials had no knowledge of this alleged conduct and deny any wrong doing.

However, if the allegations are determined to be true, they find them “abhorrent” and represent conduct that is “repugnant.”

The statement indicates that they have referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Office and Michigan State Police for a possible criminal investigation.

Fett says the audio clips will help them prove the sheriff’s misconduct.

Schuette wants to continue working at the sheriff’s office without harassment and is requesting compensation for his mistreatment.

“It has taken a toll on him because the sheriff is a pretty vindictive guy. But nonetheless, he does have a lot of support. The county needs to clean up this work environment. Not just for him. But for everybody that works there,” Fett said.

Fett says right now they’re waiting for the chance to have their case heard in court.

He says the suit could take several months to resolve if it’s not settled outside of court.

Rand is a republican who was elected sheriff by voters.

Because of his status as an elected official, he can only be removed by a successful recall election or intervention from the Governor.