Northwestern police officer alleges sexual harassment, gender discrimination in federal lawsuit

Patrick Svitek, Reporter

A University Police officer is suing Northwestern for sexual harassment and gender discrimination, claiming the University Police Department assigned her to an unfavorable shift when she returned from maternity leave, among other forms of retaliation.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, Sgt. Haydee Martinez accuses another sergeant, Timothy Reuss, of sexually harassing her for at least three months ending in March 2011. Reuss used anti-gay slurs around Martinez, who is lesbian, suggested she wanted to be with another gay officer when they both took off the same day and falsely accused her of forging her timesheet, causing her supervisor to question her, according to the lawsuit.

Several months later, Martinez began working light duty — a less demanding assignment — because she was undergoing fertility treatments, the lawsuit says. After she notified NU she was pregnant in October 2011, she claims she was allowed to continue working light duty until about a month later, when Deputy Chief Daniel McAleer told her she would have to go on disability or take medical leave until she could perform her “full duties.” Martinez went on medical leave.

Martinez had her child in June 2012, according to the lawsuit. When she came back from maternity leave about three months later, she claims she was not allowed to bid for her shifts — a common practice among sergeants — and instead assigned to a “swing shift,” meaning a sergeant switches back and forth between working various shifts.

“Martinez had been on a swing shift years earlier and had requested removal from the swing shift due to the difficulty of transitioning between shift times,” the lawsuit says. “While officers generally find swing shifts difficult to work, swing shifts are particularly difficult and inappropriate for a new mother.”

The lawsuit says McAleer’s denial of further light duty, Martinez’s inability to bid for her shifts and her assignment to a swing shift amounted to retaliation for her initial allegation of discrimination. Martinez also accuses NU of “reckless indifference” to her right to equal pay, claiming she was not paid as much as male employees in similar positions in the department since being promoted to sergeant in June 2007.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for six counts, including harassment, pregnancy discrimination, gender discrimination and retaliation.

“Northwestern does not comment on pending litigation, but the University does not discriminate on the basis of gender, pregnancy or any other protected category,” NU spokesman Bob Rowley said in a statement Friday afternoon.

McAleer, who also acts as UP’s spokesman, was unavailable for comment, and another UP official deferred comment to the University. Reuss did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

On Friday afternoon, the UP website listed Martinez and Reuss as sergeants. Thomas Crooks, Martinez’s attorney, confirmed she still works for the department.

Crooks said the lawsuit was originally filed last month in Cook County Circuit Court. It was refiled Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago because it makes allegations related to the federal Equal Pay Act, according to court records.

Judge Amy J. St. Eve on Friday recused herself from the case, citing her husband’s employment. She is married to Feinberg Prof. Howard Chrisman.

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