Colorado State Patrolmen Lose $800,000 Suit to Discriminated Gay Trooper
A Colorado State Patrol Department will pay about $800,000 to an ex-trooper who said he was denied re-employment after his sexuality was made public.
Captain Brett Williams had previously worked for the State Patrol until early 2010. He left the job after another opportunity opened up as a helicopter pilot, but he soon decided to return to the state patrolmen. When Williams returned and sought reemployment, he was required to take a polygraph test to qualify his reinstatement. During this test, a State Patrol sergeant proceeded to ask him questions revealing Williams’ as a gay man.
It is a violation of Colorado State Patrolmen rules to ask a polygraph question which could expose someone’s sexual orientation. More importantly in the state of Colorado, non-discrimination laws include sexual orientation (and gender identity) in its list of protected classes, meaning its illegal to deny employment to state employees based on these factors.
State Senior Administrative Law Judge Mary McClatchey, who ruled in favor of Williams last Friday, said the rightful legal action taken by Williams had left him unemployable in law enforcement or with other private companies, according to the Denver Post. “Because of his litigation in this case and his sexual orientation,” she said, “(he) will likely be regarded by prospective law enforcement employers as an individual who is potentially litigious and may pose internal personnel disruptions.”
This lead to the enormous cash settlement figure, $768,268, which includes both back and future pay and interest.
Colorado is not the first state to be on the forefront of fighting for equality rights for the LGBT community, though much progress has been made (including their more progressive non-discrimination policy)
A similar incident occurred in West Virginia in December of 2011, when a police officer claimed he was asked to resign because he was gay. Jason Jones, a Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy, went out with a male friend for an off duty night of drinking. His drinking companion later accused Officer Jones of touching him inappropriately and the following day Jones was asked to retire by his commanding Sheriff, Joseph N. Carpenter, without asking Jones for his side of the story.
Jones went on to tell the Charleston Gazette that Carpenter said if Jones didn’t retire, and if the investigation proved Jones’s innocence, he would “fire me anyways for conduct ‘unbecoming of an officer.”
Jones did end up retiring peacefully. West Virginia also lacks sexual orientation and gender identity from its state’s non-discrimination policy.
Another similar case that happened here in Virginia involved VCU’s Women’s volleyball coach who believed he was fired because he was openly gay. James Finley believed VCU’s new Athletic Director, Ed McLaughlin, targeted him and the only other openly gay employee within the athletic department, leading to Finley’s firing, and the other employees demotion to a less public job. Again, because Virginia state-employment code omits sexual orientation, there was little legal recourse for the champion Volley-ball coach.
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