University Police officers to re-file discrimination claims against Northwestern for disciplinary action

Madeline Fox, Campus Editor

Two current University Police officers and one former officer will re-file claims they were improperly disciplined over alleged inappropriate comments about LGBT people, a lawyer involved with the case said Monday.

The two UP officers and one former UP sergeant were disciplined for “inappropriate comments about homosexuals” made on a bus en route to a Northwestern football game Sept. 21, 2013, according to court documents. The officers then filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in February 2014 claiming they were treated unfairly by the University because of their race all three officers are white following the incident. One officer, a woman, also claimed she was discriminated against because of her gender, the documents show.

Judge Robert Gettleman ruled Wednesday the three individuals can file an amended complaint after he partially upheld and partially denied Northwestern’s motion to dismiss the suit against the University.

The three individuals can move forward with claims for reverse race discrimination and violation of their equal rights under the law, according to the court documents. The female officer’s complaint of gender discrimination and the other current officer’s claim of interference with anticipated economic advantage from a promotion for which he was no longer eligible can also be re-filed, according to the documents.

University spokesman Al Cubbage declined to comment Monday, saying the University does not comment on ongoing personnel matters.

One of their coworkers lodged a complaint against the three individuals with the Sexual Harassment Prevention Office after confronting one of them about their remarks, prompting Joan Slavin, director of Sexual Harassment Prevention, to investigate the incident, according to the documents. Slavin found the three officers had violated NU’s sexual harassment policy and notified the administration, according to court documents.

All three individuals were suspended — two of them without pay — by UP, given a shift change, banned from applying for promotion for six months and notified they would be fired if another complaint were filed against them based on Slavin’s findings, the documents show.

Additionally, one of the officers, who resigned Feb. 7, 2014, was demoted from a sergeant position and the female officer was relieved of several of her duties, according to the documents.

Mark King, one of the lawyers handling the case on behalf of the current and former UP officers, said the disciplinary action seemed “fairly excessive” and was taken without collecting “adequate” evidence.

“There are a number of instances detailed [in the EEOC complaint] where similar or more egregious cases resulted in less discipline,” King told The Daily.

The EEOC complaints include a claim that the officers received disparate treatment compared to a black sergeant accused by the same coworker of sexual harassment for remarks about gay people. The complaints claim no disciplinary action was taken in that case.

The three individuals have until March 17 to file their amended complaint, which NU will have to answer in writing by April 7, King said.

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