Columbus, OH – A federal jury awarded a black, female police lieutenant $2 on Monday in her discrimination lawsuit against the city of Columbus.
Columbus Police Lieutenant Melissa McFadden filed the lawsuit in June of 2018 after she was reassigned a year earlier to the police department’s property division because of a federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint against her, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The complaint against Lt. McFadden alleged that she had given a higher-than-deserved performance review to a sergeant because he was black.
It also accused the lieutenant of creating a hostile work environment at the police department, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The complaints against Lt. McFadden alleged she fostered a “black militancy mindset” and an “us-versus-them” attitude when it came to relations with black and white officers.
Lt. McFadden complained in her lawsuit that other officials who had similar EEO complaints filed against them hadn’t been reassigned.
She said if any had been reassigned, it hadn’t been to a laborious position like the one she was given in the property room, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Lt. McFadden is on extended medical leave now recovering from an injury to her rotator cuff that she said was a result of working in the physically-demanding position in the property room.
An internal investigation was conducted and afterwards, then-Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs recommended the 22-year veteran of the police force be terminated, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
But Ned Pettus, who was city’s public safety director at the time, said the police department had not met its burden of proof and refused to terminate Lt. McFadden.
Lt. McFadden maintained that her reassignment was retaliation for her having spoken out about discrimination in the police department, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
She self-published a booked entitled “Walking the Thin Black Line” in September of 2020 in which Lt. McFadden chronicled the alleged racism she had experienced working for the Columbus police.
The Internal Affairs bureau filed yet another complaint against the lieutenant when her book was released, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Lt. McFadden claimed she was afraid of more retaliation when her book came out, but the book’s introduction said something different.
She wrote that she was “finally bulletproof” and that her attorney was “happily busy filing lawsuits against my employer,” The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The federal civil rights trial ran for four days and ended on June 13 when the jury returned a verdict awarding Lt. McFadden $2.
“It was more about the principle than money,” John Marshall, an attorney for the police official, told The Columbus Dispatch.
Marshall said Lt. McFadden was happy with the verdict.
“She feels like really she won,” he added.
Marshall said he planned to ask the judge to order the city to pay Lt. McFadden’s legal fees, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
He said he would also ask that Lt. McFadden’s personal file be expunged and that the judge order the police department to send “a communication to all CDP officers that the discrimination and retaliation are regretted and CDP looks forward to many more years of Lt. McFadden’s contribution to its mission.”
The attorney said his client was due to be promoted to commander soon after she scored near the top on the promotion exam, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The promotions are occurring more rapidly than usual because of a recent mass exodus of experienced and high-ranking officers from the department after the city offered veteran police a one-time $200,000 buyout offer.