NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES, Feb. 11, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — According to a review of public records and media reports conducted by USA Today, there have been 11 lawsuits filed alleging harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ law enforcement officers since 2016. Experts note that while discrimination against LGBTQ officers is not new, the number of lawsuits and victims speaking out is.
In their lawsuits, officers have described a wide range of discriminating behavior, all due to their sexuality. The discriminating behavior encompassed everything from cruel taunts and hostile work environments to limited career opportunities or advancement.
In 2016, Jay Brome, a California Highway Patrol officer, filed a lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol alleging discrimination and harassment over the course of 20 years there. According to Brome, the discrimination began when he was a cadet in highway patrol academy. Brome alleges that a fellow cadet put a gun to his head and said, “I know you are gay. Tell me you are gay and I will pull the trigger.”
The harassment continued for Brome, who alleges that fellow officers tied hangers in the shape of penises outside of his locker, routinely directed homophobic slurs at him, and even carved his name off of an awards plaque. Despite numerous internal complaints that Brome filed, no actions were ever taken.
In another discrimination lawsuit, Andrew Kara, a former police officer, sued the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office for sexual harassment, sexual orientation discrimination, and wrongful termination in 2017. According the lawsuit, officers and supervisors allegedly mocked Kara in person and in work texting groups because he is gay.
Kara’s colleagues frequently used homophobic slurs against him and asked him whether he had any “AIDS medicine.” At one point, a sergeant allegedly mocked Kara’s sexual preference by insinuating Kara had “choked on a thing or two in his lifetime,” while simulating oral sex.
Carney Shegerian, the founder of employee rights law firm Shegerian & Associates, has weighed in on the lawsuits.
“The allegations of widespread discrimination and harassment against LGBTQ law enforcement officers are deeply disturbing,” Shegerian says. “The continued harassment is not only mentally and emotionally debilitating, but creates an extremely unsafe work environment for law enforcement officers who do not feel supported by their colleagues.”
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