A jury ruled in favor of a Columbus Division of Police Lieutenant who sued the Ohio city's department over racial discrimination and retaliation, NBC 4 reports.
Lt. Melissa McFadden, who self-published the book Walking the Thin Black Line alleging racism within the department, filed the lawsuit four years ago, in 2018. She was awarded $2.
In the original complaint, McFadden had asked for at least $25,000 plus lost wages and legal fees. According to the ruling, the jury awarded McFadden $1 in compensatory damages, adding up to $2.
No explanation was given for the jury’s ruling.
Marshall, Forman, Schlein LLC, the law firm representing McFadden, issued a news release noting that the lieutenant was "involuntarily reassigned to the division’s property room in 2017 as a result of allegations of misconduct against her from three officers and that she was treated more harshly than white officers who were also accused of similar conduct.”
“In the time surrounding Lt. McFadden’s illegal reassignment, three white police Sergeants, three white Lieutenants, and one white Commander were accused of EEO [equal employment opportunity] violations and none of the white individuals were reassigned at all,” the release read.
"It was more about the principle than money," said John Marshall, one of McFadden's attorneys, told The Dispatch. McFadden is pleased with the verdict, he said, adding, "She feels like really she won."
Marshall said McFadden added that they plan to ask U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus to order the city to pay McFadden's legal fees and for other measures.
Back in 2018, McFadden was accused of creating "a hostile work environment" and harboring an “us against them” attitude when it came to Black and white officers. Although she denied the allegations, former Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs recommended that she be terminated. McFadden returned to her job after the safety director at the time ruled in her favor.
When the investigation concluded, McFadden filed her federal lawsuit against the city. According to the document, McFadden’s attorney said multiple supervising officers targeted the lieutenant for helping another Black officer in 2016 file a complaint against a sergeant.
“Cmdr. [Jennifer] Knight told Sgt. [Kyle] Fishburn in the presence of the African-American female officer and other officers that her complaint was ‘stupid’ and ‘not going anywhere,'” the complaint read. “During the same conversation, Cmdr. Knight stated that she was going to ‘take [Lt. McFadden] out’ for assisting the African-American female officer with the charge.”
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein addressed the ruling in a statement.
“The City Attorney’s office takes seriously any allegations of retaliation and discrimination by city employers,” he said. “We thank the judge and jury for taking the time necessary to understand, deliberate, and decide this case. We respect their decision.”