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Non-Shaving Deputy Wins Punitive Damages, Attorney Fees

Lavanden Darks is one of four black deputies with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in Missouri. Jackson County employs approximately 100 sworn officers. In 2014, Jackson County required all sworn officers appearing in uniform to be clean shaven with the exception of moustaches. Darks experienced pain with shaving and was medically diagnosed with an inflammatory skin condition known as psuedofolliculitis barbae. After attempting several treatments and other shaving methods,…

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Double Jeopardy Results In Reversal Of Suspension For Racial Slur

An unnamed Cincinnati, Ohio police officer (employees are often not named in reported disciplinary arbitration decisions) responded to a call at an apartment complex on September 26, 2018. Identified only as Officer , he met the individuals outside the apartment complex and determined that the residents were intoxicated. The officer recognized two of them from working in the community. After directing two male individuals to leave, the men got…

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No Retaliation If Decision-Maker Unaware Of Protected Activity

Aubrey Lyons is an African-American corrections officer with the Michigan Department of Corrections. After being transferred in 2012 to the Macomb Correctional Facility, Lyons allegedly began to experience various incidents of discrimination by his white supervisors. Lyons filed his first internal discrimination complaint against the Department in January 2015 in response to being disciplined for violating its computer use policies. Lyons claimed the white investigating lieutenant, James Webster, singled…

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Court Upholds Officer’s $500k Judgment Against Sergeant

Officer Detlef Sommerfield works for the Chicago Police Department. Sommerfield was born and raised in Germany, where some of his family members had died in concentration camps during the Holocaust. At some point he emigrated to the United States, settled in Chicago, and joined the CPD. His supervisor was Sergeant Lawrence Knasiak. As the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals described it, “for years, Sommerfield endured vicious anti-Semitic abuse…

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Racist Comments From Hearing Board Member Violate Due Process

Jonathan Stevens was a police officer with the Town of West Terre Haute in Indiana. On October 31, 2017, Stevens was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and felony domestic battery committed in the presence of a child less than 16 years old. Prior to these charged crimes, Stevens had never been reprimanded or disciplined for any violation, and he had been promoted to a supervisory role in the…

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No ‘Error Too Obvious To Be Unintentional’ On The Money Train

Tiffany Washington, an African American woman, served as a sergeant in the Metro Transit Police Department from 2008 to 2016. The Department is a unit of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which operates trains and buses in and around the District of Columbia. Washington worked at WMATA’s Revenue Collection Facility in Alexandria, Virginia, where she supervised lower-ranking officers aboard the money train, which transports cash fares from…

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Who Is ‘Similarly Situated’ For Disciplinary Purposes?

Morris Johnson was a trooper with the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Johnson pulled over a woman for a DUI, arrested her, and asked her out. A month later, he saw the same woman on the road and pulled her over without probable cause so he could talk to her. He asked her out again, told her he liked her, and asked her to go to the casino with…

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Lying, Not Complaint About Profiling, Was Basis For Investigation Into Officer

Lamark Ferguson, who is African-American, is an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. Around midnight on the evening of August 18, 2014, while Ferguson was off-duty and returning home from a family function, he drove to a rental property in South Los Angeles that he owned and was renovating. Ferguson was driving his black 1999 Chevy Tahoe with tinted windows, 22-inch chrome rims, and low-profile tires. He was…

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Sergeant’s $1.9 Million Verdict Reduced To $2,700

Pennsylvania State Police Sergeant David Holt II filed suit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and four of his supervisors. Holt alleged multiple instances of race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, and contrary to the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment. A jury returned a partial verdict, thereby necessitating a second trial. Holt prevailed on several of…

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LAPD Officers Lose $4 Million Discrimination Judgment On Appeal

George Diego and Allan Corrales are Hispanic police officers working for the Los Angeles Police Department. Diego and Corrales were involved in a fatal shooting in March 2010. In that incident, they fired at a person they believed was threatening them with a gun, but who turned out to be a young, unarmed African-American man who was later described by his family as autistic. The shot fired by Corrales…

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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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Boston Police ‘Hair Test’ Back For Another Round

The continuing litigation saga involving eight Boston police officers terminated for failing the Police Department’s “hair test” for drugs appears to have yet more life left in it. When their hair tested positive for controlled substances, the officers sued, claiming that the hair drug test was racially discriminatory. After the officers lost an initial round in a federal trial court, the claim was heard by the First Circuit Court…

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Sergeant Wins $620K Race Discrimination Claim

Sergeant David Bonenberger, who is white, was a long-time employee of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. In September 2010, the Department posted a job opening for Assistant Academy Director of the city’s police academy. Upon learning of the opening, Bonenberger contacted a lieutenant “to get a feel for” whether he might be eligible for the position, despite not meeting the minimum qualifications of three years of supervisory experience…

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Boston PD Rank-Ordered Promotions Held Discriminatory

Ten black police sergeants sued the City of Boston under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that the multiple-choice examinations the Department administered in 2005 and 2008 to select which sergeants to promote to the rank of lieutenant had a racially disparate impact on minority candidates and were insufficiently job-related to pass muster under Title VII. A trial court recently found the City’s practices to…

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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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PCP Not The Same As Alcohol For Purposes Of Race Discrimination Claim

Following his arrest for Driving Under the Influence, Antjuan Proctor entered a “back-to-work agreement” in lieu of termination from the Fairfax County, Virginia Fire and Rescue Department. Under the Agreement, Proctor was required to abstain from all mood-altering substances and submit to random, unannounced drug and alcohol testing. Less than two months after he entered the Agreement, Proctor tested positive for the illegal drug phencyclidine (PCP). Proctor challenged his…

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Afghani Police Officer Applicant Loses Lawsuit

After the City of Minneapolis did not hire Hamid Amini for a position with the Minneapolis Police Department, Amini, who was born in Afghanistan, filed suit, alleging that the City discriminated against him based on his race, color, and national origin. Amini argued that he satisfied the City’s criteria to be placed on the eligible list and was ranked second among the 12 candidates certified to the hiring decision-maker….

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Corrections Officer Loses Reverse Discrimination Claim

James Finley works as a corrections officer for Camden County, New Jersey. Finley brought a reverse discrimination against the County, arguing that in several rounds of promotions, the County declined to promote him because he was Caucasian. Finley argued that the County systematically promoted less-qualified non-Caucasian candidates. A federal trial court examined the evidence and dismissed Finley’s claim. Starting with promotions that occurred in March 2006 and March 2007,…

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Calling Officer A ‘Pain’ Not Gender Or Race Discrimination

Sharon Davis, an African-American, was employed as a police officer with the Newark, New Jersey Police Department. Davis filed a seven-count lawsuit against the City, alleging that she was retaliated against for raising issues of racial and gender discrimination. The federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected all of Davis’s claims. The Court held that, “even accepting Davis’s allegations, she has failed to claim that she was retaliated against…

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Court Allows Hostile Work Environment Claim To Proceed

In the wake of a series of Supreme Court decisions tightening up the standard as to what amounts to racial or sexual harassment, it has been more and more difficult for public safety officers to successfully bring harassment claims. And so it was a bit of a surprise to see one of the more conservative courts in the country, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, reverse the dismissal…

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Residency Requirement Violates Title VII

The North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue (NHRFR) is a consolidated municipal fire department and political subdivision of the State of New Jersey that serves several communities in North Hudson County. In New Jersey, civil service positions such as firefighter are subject to the examination process administered by the New Jersey Department of Personnel. In order to take the examination, a candidate must also live in one of the…

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The High Hurdle Of Showing That Employees Are Similarly Situated For Discrimination Purposes

Calvin Chism, an African-American, was employed for 16 years as a firefighter in Forrest City, Arkansas. Chism had been arrested several times for various charges during his tenure with the Department, including arrests for third degree battery in 1992, for assault in 1994, for aggravated assault in 2003, for two counts of third-degree battery in 2005, for two counts of domestic battery in 2005, and for harassing communications in…

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Supreme Court Allows Chicago Fire Department Race Discrimination Lawsuit To Proceed

In July 1995, the City of Chicago administered a written examination to over 26,000 applicants seeking to serve in the Chicago Fire Department. After scoring the examinations, the City announced that it would begin drawing randomly from the top tier of scorers, i.e., those who scored 89 or above (out of 100), whom the City called “well qualified.” Those drawn from this group would proceed to the next phase…

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St. Louis Fire Chief Refuses To Use Promotional List, Loses Job

Sherman George began his employment in 1967 with the St. Louis Fire Department, and in 1999 became the first African-American to serve as the City’s fire chief. The Department is under the Department of Public Safety. The fire chief is appointed by and reports directly to the director of public safety, who is appointed by and reports directly to the mayor. Promotions within the City’s civil service system, including…

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Firefighter Decision Pits Hispanic Against African-American Applicants

The North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue (NHRFR) is a consolidated fire department in New Jersey. In New Jersey, civil service positions such as firefighter are subject to the examination process administered by the New Jersey Department of Personnel. In order to be placed on the NHRFR’s hiring list, a candidate must also live in one of the municipalities served by the NHRFR. As of July 2008, the NHRFR…

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