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Chicago Officer Loses Discrimination Claim

Adam Wazny was born in Poland. He immigrated to the United States with his parents and siblings in the mid-1990s. Although he has lived in the United States for most of his life, Wazny speaks English with an accent. Wazny joined the Chicago Police Department in 2003. In 2009, after working in several roles including as a beat officer, he transferred to the Department’s vice section, which is made…

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Same-Sex Partner Loses Claim For Survivor Benefits

Debra Lee Anderson and Deborah Cady were committed partners who worked for the Rapid City Police Department in South Dakota. Cady retired from the Department in May 2012. The couple married on July 19, 2015. Cady passed away on March 10, 2017. Upon Cady’s passing, Anderson applied for spousal survivor benefits under Cady’s retirement plan with the South Dakota Retirement System. The System denied Anderson’s application claiming Anderson and…

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Who Are ‘Comparable Employees’ For Discrimination Purposes?

Most discrimination cases follow a three-step process first described by the Supreme Court in McDonnell-Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Under the McDonnell-Douglas framework, the employee bears the initial burden of setting forth a prima facie case of discrimination. The burden then shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for whatever adverse action it took against the employee. If the employer meets that burden,…

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Discipline For Accident Not Pretext For Discrimination

Patrick Boyd was a captain with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, and a member of the Department’s SWAT team. Boyd is white. On March 26, 2015, Boyd sent an email to other officers and employees of the Department, to which he attached a list of grievances. Some concerned the Department’s promotion policies and testing, and were motivated in part by Boyd’s belief that the Department was “favoring one…

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‘Clearly Established Law’ Forbids Discrimination Based On Union Activity

Joseph Giberson, the now-retired Police Chief of Stafford Township, New Jersey presided over the 2012-2013 police sergeant promotional process. Among the candidates was Joseph Mrazek, who also served as president of the local Police Benevolent Association (PBA). Mrazek sued Giberson, among others, for retaliating against him in the promotion process because of his union affiliation. Candidates for promotion to sergeant were evaluated in a two-part process that included both…

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Refusing Request To Use Employer’s Car Amounts To Illegal Discrimination

Frank Blair and Gabe Molina are employees of the New Mexico Department of Corrections, and are officials of AFSCME Local 3422, the bargaining unit for New Mexico’s corrections officers. In 2009, the Department denied a request from Blair and Molina to use a state vehicle to travel to and from a policy review meeting with Department management. Blair and Molina were attending the meeting in their capacity as “employee…

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Fire Captain Loses Beach Volleyball Case

Andre DeCohen, who is African-American, is a fire captain employed by Los Angeles County. On February 25, 2012, DeCohen was working an overtime shift at a different station. Tom Brady was another captain working the same shift. In the Department, firefighters, including captains, are required to participate in physical training for at least one hour per day. When DeCohen arrived at Fire Station 110 for his overtime shift, Brady…

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Evidence, Not Speculation, Needed For Race Discrimination Claim

Timothy Rivers, an African-American, was hired by the Macon, Georgia Police Department in February 2010. Rivers was certified as an Explosive Ordnance Device K-9 handler, and had been assigned to partner with EOD K-9 Arco in August 2013. On January 1, 2014, the City of Macon and Bibb County were consolidated to form a unified governing body known as Macon-Bibb County. As a result of the consolidation, the Macon…

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Not Religious Discrimination To Refuse Muslim CO’s Request To Wear Khimar

Linda Tisby began working as a corrections officer for the Camden County, New Jersey Correctional Facility in 2002. In 2015, Tisby reverted to the Sunni Muslim faith. On May 1, 2015, Tisby reported to work wearing, for the first time, a traditional Muslim khimar, a tight fitting head covering without a veil. Tisby’s supervisor informed her she was not in compliance with the uniform policy and could not work…

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Transsexual Officer Wins Discrimination Lawsuit Over Bathroom Use

The Clark County, Nevada School District hired Bradley Roberts as a campus monitor in 1992. At that time, he was known as Brandilyn Netz. In 1994, Roberts moved to a police officer position. Roberts held that position without incident for seventeen years. In 2011, Roberts began dressing for work like a man, grooming like a man, and identifying himself as a man. He also started using the men’s bathroom…

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Discrimination Law Protects Divorcing EMT

Robert Smith is a certified emergency medical technician and paramedic working for the Millville, New Jersey Rescue Squad (MRS). At the time of his termination in February 2006, Smith served as Director of Operations and had held that position since June 1998. Smith’s wife at the time, Mary, was also employed by MRS, as were her mother and two sisters. In early 2005, Smith commenced an extramarital affair with…

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Who Is A ‘Comparator’ For Discrimination Purposes?

Edward Voccola, who is Caucasian, sued the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut, for race discrimination after he was terminated from his job as a firefighter. Voccola’s troubles began on September 5, 2010, when the Shelton Police began investigating an incident involving Voccola. Voccola’s neighbors, who had ongoing problems with Voccola based on their belief that he had dumped motor oil on their property several years earlier, called the police because…

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‘Classic Stray Remark’ Cannot Support Discrimination Claim

There is a definite disconnect between the perception of sexual harassment law and what the current state of the law actually is. Many believe that overtly racist or sexist workplace comments easily support Title VII harassment claims. Owing to a number of Supreme Court decisions narrowing the law considerably, that belief is rarely accurate. A recent case out of Ithaca, New York illustrates this principle. Mark Hassan, of Middle…

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False Positives Do Not Make Hair Tests Discriminatory

The challenges to the hair drug test used by the Boston Police Department took a curious turn with a decision from a federal court in Massachusetts. The case involved a racial discrimination claim brought by ten black officers against the Department challenging the constitutionality of the hair drug test administered by the Department to officers and cadets from 1999 through 2006. Under the program, a small percentage of officers…

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Gratuitous Comments Not Enough For Pregnancy Discrimination Claim

Patricia Rosati has spent most of her career in the 8th Police District in the City of Philadelphia since becoming a police officer in 1996. Sgt. Michael Colello was the administrative sergeant in the 8th District from early 2008 through mid-2012. As Rosati recited the facts, from 2005 through 2014, Rosati took multiple leaves of absence under the Family And Medical Leave Act and frequently worked on restricted duty…

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Rank Matters In Fire Department

Felicia Scroggins is a firefighter for the City of Shreveport, Louisiana. On September 20, 2010, Scroggins and other Shreveport firefighters responded to a residential fire. Scroggins and Captain Reggie Taylor were part of Fire Engine Six. Fire Engine Four, which was run by Captain Jeff Cash, also responded. While attempting to put out the fire, Scroggins and Captain Cash became involved in an altercation. Scroggins told investigators that she…

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Transfer Denial Cannot Support Discrimination Claim

For many discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the employee must show that he/she was the subject of an “adverse employment action.” Roughly speaking, an adverse employment action amounts to some quantitative or qualitative change in the terms or conditions of his employment or some sort of real harm. A federal appeals court recently rejected the discrimination claim of Nora Chaib, a corrections officer for…

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Officers’ Personnel Files Discoverable In Discrimination Litigation

Christopher Barella, a white police officer working for the Village of Freeport, New York, sued the Village claiming that the Village’s hiring and promotional processes discriminated on the basis of race. In the course of the litigation, Barella sought disclosure of the personnel files of 24 employees who worked in City departments other than the Police Department. Barella claimed that the personnel files would show that the Village’s Mayor…

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Colorful Decision Upholds Discrimination Verdict For Firefighter

From the opening words of a federal court’s opinion in Firefighter Melissa Smith’s sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against the City of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, one realizes that the Court’s opinion is going to be unlike most “just the facts, ma’am” judicial decisions. Judge Gregory Presnell began his opinion writing: “Discrimination in the workplace anywhere in the United States is inconsistent with the concept of ordered liberty as…

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Court Refuses To Issue Promotion TRO In Jacksonville FD

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit in April 2012 alleging that the process used by the City of Jacksonville, Florida to promote certain ranks of firefighters discriminated against African-Americans. Among the allegations, the DOJ claimed that the 2004 and 2008 testing processes used to promote fire suppression captains were discriminatory. When the City scheduled a new promotions test for fire suppression captains for November 18, 2013, the…

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Arbitration Decision Does Not Preclude Discrimination Lawsuit

When Cecilia Baldazo was fired from her job as a deputy sheriff for Elko County, Nevada, she filed a federal court lawsuit alleging that she was the victim of discrimination on the basis of her gender and her sexual orientation. The State raised the defense that since Baldazo had challenged her discharge in arbitration, and had lost, the arbitration decision should be res judicata and require the dismissal of…

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Black Police Chief Loses Race Discrimination Claim

Robert Herbert became the Police Chief for the City of Forest Hill, Texas in 1994. In 1998, seven months after giving Herbert a “glowing” performance evaluation, David Vestal, the City Manager, demoted Herbert to the position of sergeant. Herbert, who is African-American, responded with a race discrimination lawsuit. Herbert claimed that the City’s asserted reason for terminating him – his inadequate job performance – was a pretext for discrimination….

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Omaha’s Affirmative Action Plan For Fire Department Ruled Discriminatory

In 1971, the City of Omaha, Nebraska instituted the first of a series of affirmative action plans for the Fire Department. The most recent plan, adopted in 2002, is consistent with the Office of Federal Contracting Compliance Program Guidelines on Affirmative Action Programs (Guidelines). The Guidelines, which are not binding on municipalities, specify that “availability” is defined as “an estimate of the number of qualified minorities available for employment…

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Failed Severance Package Not Basis For Discrimination Lawsuit

Kimberly Andree was a lieutenant with the Eagle County, Colorado Sheriff’s Department. In 2010, the County was facing significant revenue reductions, and the Board of County Commissioners told the Sheriff that he would need to cut his Department’s budget by $2 million. During this same time period, the County offered early retirement packages to its employees. At the end of June 2010, Andree met with the Sheriff and told…

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Minnesota Deputies’ Case Shows The Evidence Necessary For A ‘Pretext’ Claim

Many “retaliation” cases follow the same general structure. First, the employee must present a prima facie case by showing that (1) he engaged in an activity protected by the First Amendment, (2) he suffered an adverse employment action, and (3) the protected conduct was a “substantial or motivating factor” in the employer’s decision to take the adverse employment action. The employer can rebut the employee’s prima facie showing by…

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