The Department of Justice said Wednesday that it will move to intervene in a private lawsuit filed by a cop who is alleging he was subjected to racial epithets as well as racial harassment, humiliation and intimidation by his co-workers and supervisors at the sheriff’s department, according to federal officials.
The lawsuit names Pocomoke City, Maryland, the Worcester County Sheriff and the state of Maryland as defendants.
Federal law prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.
Pocomoke City Police Officer Franklin Savage’s complaints about racial harassment allegedly resulted in a series of retaliatory actions against him by the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and Pocomoke City, concluding with the termination of his employment.
The complaint further alleges that Pocomoke City similarly retaliated against two other officers – former Pocomoke City Police Chief Kelvin Sewell and former Pocomoke City Police Lieutenant Lynell Green – for supporting Officer Savage in the course of his complaints. Chief Sewell was eventually terminated as well.
The complaint seeks a court order that requires the defendants to implement policies and procedures that will ensure a workplace environment free of discrimination and retaliatory conduct. Federal prosecutors also seeks relief, including monetary relief for the three charging parties as compensation for damages caused by the alleged discrimination.
“Federal law protects against discrimination and retaliation in the workplace,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Adding, “in police departments, that protection is vital not only for individual officials, but also for the communities they serve. The Justice Department is firmly committed to ensuring that our nation’s state and local law enforcement agencies comply with Title VII’s promise of a workplace free from racial discrimination and retaliation.”
Officer Savage, Chief Sewell and Lieutenant Green each filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC’s Baltimore Office investigated the charges and made reasonable cause findings. After unsuccessful conciliation efforts, the EEOC referred the charges to the Justice Department.
“No one should have to face harassment and retaliation while at work,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang. “When public employees face discrimination, it undermines the trust and credibility in our public institutions. This case represents the latest partnership between EEOC and the Department of Justice to advance our shared Title VII enforcement responsibilities.”
This lawsuit was brought as a result of a joint collaborative effort by the EEOC and the Civil Rights Division to vigorously enforce Title VII.
“EEOC is committed to ensuring the employees who serve the public in critical law enforcement positions are protected by the laws forbidding unlawful harassment and retaliation in the workplace,” said Director Spencer H. Lewis Jr. of EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which includes the Baltimore Field Office. “I am pleased that EEOC and the Department of Justice have established a collaborative relationship that will impact public employers and work together to redress violations of the law when they occur.”
To read Pocomoke City Motion to Intervene click here: federal papers
The Washington Post reported in January that three black police officers filed a lawsuit in federal court against Pocomoke City, Md., and its police department, alleging that they were subjected to serious racial discrimination by town and county officials.
The lawsuit, which also names as defendants the city’s former manager, its mayor, the Worcester County sheriff’s office, the state’s attorney’s office and the Maryland State Police, comes seven months after the contentious firing of Pocomoke City’s first black police chief, Kelvin Sewell.
He alleged that he was ousted because he refused to fire two black officers who complained about working in a racially hostile environment.
The lawsuit claims Sewell, Lt. Lynell Green and detective Franklin Savage “were mocked, threatened, demeaned, demoted, punished, falsely accused of misconduct, ostracized and humiliated because of their race.”
Ernie Crofoot, Pocomoke City manager and city attorney, said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit. “We haven’t received it yet,” he said, “so we have no comment.” City and county officials have previously denied the allegations of racial discrimination, according to the newspaper story.
To read the entire story click here: Washington Post
Last year, Savage, who had been a Pocomoke City police officer since 2011, told the Washington Post that he was fired after he complained that the state’s attorney repeatedly used “the n-word” during a meeting last year about a case that he was prosecuting.
“I didn’t do anything but tell the truth. I’m being punished for telling the truth,” said Savage, who said he was told Oct. 26 that he was being fired because his “integrity” had been called into question. “The city manager was like, ‘If you can’t testify in court, you can’t be a police officer. I believe my integrity was called into question because I filed an [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] complaint against the state’s attorney.”
To read that article click here: Washington Post
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