Police dept. sued for sexual harassment & hostile work environment

Posted in Sexual Harassment,Sexual Harassment at Work on March 18, 2016

It would be nice to think that nearly all professions are now genderless – or at least welcoming of both genders. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. There are still professions typically considered “men’s work,” and women often find these work environments to be hostile. In many police departments around the country, for example, the boys’ club atmosphere is common.

Unfortunately, one of those police departments may be close by in the city of Mountain View. According to news sources, a dispatcher for the MV Police Department is suing the city and its chief of police for subjecting her to a hostile working environment. During her many years as a SWAT team dispatcher, the woman says, she was subjected to “sexually explicit banter, lewd jokes, nudity and simulated sexual acts.”

The chief of police is named in the suit because he was reportedly the SWAT team leader at the time the harassment began. He allegedly “encouraged it” rather than trying to put a stop to it.

The woman later complained to human resources about the hostile work environment. In response (and apparent retaliation), the police chief began a misconduct investigation against the plaintiff.

The city has since investigated. And although officials dispute the woman’s allegations, the investigation revealed no inappropriate conduct on her part. In spite of this, the plaintiff has been placed on leave and has allegedly been told that she cannot return to work unless she accepts a demotion. Without a good explanation from the city, it is hard to see how this action could be anything other than retaliation for filing a sexual harassment claim.

Traditionally gendered occupations sometimes have a difficult time adjusting to a more inclusive work environment – and that may initially be understandable. But once complaints are made known, it is the responsibility of department or company leaders to ensure that no harassment or discrimination is allowed to occur. That does not appear to be what happened in this case.