Federal harassment lawsuit against American Heart Association starts next month

Former Executive Director Barry Denton accused of harassment

Federal harassment lawsuit against American Heart Association starts next month
The accuser is claiming Barry Denton, a former LMPD sergeant and the husband of former state senator Julie Denton, is the boss accused of harassing an ex-employee.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Litigation will begin next month in federal court in a sex-harassment case against the former executive director of the Louisville American Heart Association.

More specifics about the allegations will reveal themselves in the weeks ahead, and even though the suit names the national organization as the defendant, the accuser is claiming Barry Denton, a former LMPD sergeant and the husband of former state senator Julie Denton, is the boss accused of harassing her.

“She’s married and she has children and he had no business doing that,” attorney Thomas Coffey said of Barry Denton in his former role as Heart Association Executive Director. “What’s not to like about the American Heart Association?”

Coffey claims that when his client was hired in 2017, the Louisville wife and mom loved the Heart Association and its work in the community until Denton was hired the following year.

“She never had a problem with the Heart Association, or any other employees before Mr. Denton arrived,” Coffey said.

The suit claims that almost immediately after Denton was hired, he subjected the woman to quote, “persistent, severe and unwelcome sexual advances and behavior.”

Coffey alleges Denton routinely referred to the employee as “smoking hot,” and commented on her clothing and boasted about his sexual exploits, telling the woman she belonged to him and would even make whip-cracking noises toward her at the office on Whittington Parkway and at public events.

“My client was walking with Mr. Denton ... and he commented to her that other men were looking at her and put his hands on her waist,” Coffey said. “But, this is her executive director; this is her boss.” The suit claims after suffering emotional PTSD from the constant harassment, the alleged victim was allowed to work from home but was later urged to resign. She’s seeking damages and a jury trial.

The Louisville attorney representing the American Heart Association told WAVE 3 News that he had no comment. Denton also declined to comment, saying he’s not named as a defendant in the case.

Coffey said the organization is being sued because under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, if you file against an employer, the individuals aren’t liable.

Denton works for UofL as a criminal justice professor. University of Louisville Director of Media Relations John Karman issued a statement about the case: “The university is a community of care committed to providing a safe workplace for all of our employees. We have in place mechanisms to report, conduct thorough investigations that respect the due process rights of the accused and ensure the mental and physical safety of the victims. We rely on these processes if and when there is an issue.”

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