Government & Politics

Jackson Co. jail employee on leave after putting underwire bra in x-ray bin: attorney

A Jackson County jail employee has been placed on paid administrative leave after putting her underwire bra into an x-ray machine after it set off the metal detector, her attorney said Friday.

Charlotte Hardin, who has worked at the jail for almost 20 years, was wearing an underwire bra when she activated the metal detector, her attorney Katherine Myers said. She went into the bathroom, took it off and placed it in a bin with her other belongings.

Myers said Hardin had been told she could not put undergarments in the x-ray machine. Why is not clear. Jail administrator Diana Turner declined to comment on Hardin or her leave.

Hardin was put on leave around a month ago, Myers said. She was told by the jail officials that her actions were being investigated, but she hasn’t received an update about the investigation or when she might return.

Myers said Hardin’s story, and that of other jail employees affected by the screening policy, shows that this is more than just an issue for attorneys.

“My client is one of numerous female employees who has been prohibited from entering the detention center because of her underwire bra,” Myers told reporters at a press conference.

Myers’ firm recently filed sex discrimination and retaliation charges on Hardin’s behalf with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Last month attorneys Tracy Spradlin, Laurie Snell, Molly Hastings and supporters protested the new jail screening policy in front of the Jackson County Courthouse.

The attorneys said their choice was to remove their bras or be denied face-to-face contact with clients inside.

The women and their supporters say this is discriminatory because men are permitted to enter the jail without removing undergarments.

“Non-metal contraband can be hidden in other clothing items, including men’s boxers or briefs,” Myers said. “Yet the only clothing item being subjected to heightened scrutiny and prohibition from the detention center is the underwire bra.”

In the month since the protest, the bra imbroglio has taken several twists. Sheriff Darryl Forte and Turner said in a public meeting last month that they wouldn’t make special accommodations for women who couldn’t pass through the detector without setting off the alarm.

Since then, the metal detectors have been largely silent, but no one will say why. Forte said the settings haven’t been changed.

Spradlin says it is probably luck, and not technology, that has allowed women to enter. Several have avoided setting off alarms by going through detectors sideways, attorney John Picerno said, or because the underwire in their bra is made of plastic.

The wires are still setting off the metal detectors, Spradlin said. She says as recently as Friday, someone wasn’t able to enter the jail.

Hastings said there are several probable solutions to the issue, including a second screening for those who set off the metal detectors or the use of wands by security guards.

Spradlin said she, Hastings, and another attorney tried to set up a meeting with Forte on June 25 to discuss the issue, but he didn’t show up and the women said they haven’t heard from him since.

“This is not just an attorney issue,” Myers said. “This is a female issue.”