Phoenix AZ April 17 2019
A Phoenix police sergeant who faced retaliation after helping a female officer report sexual harassment by another sergeant has won a $1.5 million lawsuit against the city.
After a six-day trial in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, a jury determined Sgt. Jeffrey Green’s supervisor did retaliate against him, and Phoenix was ordered to pay.
Green has been with the Phoenix Police Department since 1994.
According to the lawsuit, filed in 2015, a female officer told Green that a different sergeant had touched her between her legs at an off-duty event. Green’s supervisor told him the department needed to “get rid” of the woman because of the complaint she filed, according to the lawsuit.
But Green responded, “’boss, you can’t say that, it’s retaliation,'” the lawsuit states.
The case highlights an all-too-common issue that’s under reported out of fear of retaliation, Green’s attorney Stephen Montoya said.
“These cases, taking on the police department, is really, really hard,” he said in a phone interview with The Arizona Republic. “It’s absolutely a big victory. Big and worthwhile victory.”
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Montoya said he and Green are happy with the outcome, but it’s ultimately a loss for Phoenix taxpayers.
“It’s the public’s money and they (Phoenix) get away with it,” Montoya said. “People usually don’t find out about it, so they (Phoenix) get away it.”
Phoenix could still appeal the ruling to a higher court. Nick Valenzuela, a Phoenix spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on the case because city officials are still “working on the case.”
Sgt. Vince Lewis, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department, provided a statement saying, “Neither the City of Phoenix, nor the Phoenix Police Department will tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace. We support a culture of respect and positive behavior and encourage the reporting of inappropriate behavior at any level.”
Lewis didn’t answer questions about whether any officers were disciplined regarding this case, including the sergeant originally accused of touching the female officer.
In April 2012, the female officer, who worked at the police department for 10 years before she resigned in 2014, went to Green to report a sergeant had touched her between her legs at a wedding, according to court records and Montoya.
After filing the complaint internally with the help of Green, she filed a discrimination complaint with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
She wrote in the complaint that co-workers refused to help her in work duties that required more than one officer and that her boss tried to transfer her out of the robbery unit.
Three years later, an investigator with the commission wrote a letter to the police department saying the officer was subjected to a “hostile work environment in retaliation for her filing an internal sexual harassment complaint.”
Green filed his complaint in November 2012. He said his boss told him in July 2012 to “get rid” of the female officer for the sexual harassment complaint. Green refused, according to the complaint.
Green’s boss tried to find other reasons to fire the woman, the complaint states.
In August 2012, two officers made an internal complaint alleging saying the woman made inappropriate comments on their Facebook pages. Green investigated but didn’t find any wrongdoing on the woman’s part, the complaint states.
Green’s boss told him to punish her anyway, according to the complaint. Green refused.
Green’s boss then put Green on administrative leave because he refused to punish her, according to the complaint.