A Virginia Beach police officer filed a complaint in federal court against her supervisors and the Virginia Beach Police Department for gender discrimination and retaliation. Nicole Kosman has been an officer of the Virginia Beach Police Department for ten years. In 2009, she became the first woman accepted into the Department’s SWAT Team. Unfortunately, it appears the Team and the Department still held on to the gender preferences that had prevented women from joining SWAT before. Kosman faced gender hostility throughout her time in SWAT training, after the training, and even after she was transferred out of SWAT.
From the beginning, Kosman claims, her ability to perform her duties was questioned despite consistently receiving high marks and exceeding performance expectations. According to her complaint, her fellow male officers would make derogatory comments, send sexually explicit text messages and emails, and make false accusations against her to hurt her reputation and performance evaluations. Furthermore, her training officers and supervisors allegedly created obstacles that the male officers did not have, such as limited training and job experiences, and those subsequently hurt her advancement opportunities. Despite her numerous complaints about the harassing comments and differential treatment, her supervisors and the Department did nothing to correct the behavior or change the situation. In fact, she claims her complaints led to retaliation at every level of the Department, reduced duties, targeted internal investigations, and eventually a transfer to another unit, where she was still targeted. Even though Kosman is still working for the Department and trying to change the discrimination from within, she felt the lawsuit was necessary for change.
Goal: Avoid Discrimination Lawsuits
For the most part, employers, employees and the court prefer to resolve legal matters before they actually reach the courts. Taking legal issues to court can be time consuming and costly. For this reason, there are many procedures and alternative options through which the parties must work before they can reach the courts.
Ideally, employees should notify the employer of concerns or potential employment issues. And employers should investigate and internally resolve any issues that are found. If the resolution is insufficient or the employer fails to take actions, employees can notify the relevant government agency with the matter. The agency will conduct its own investigation if it believes there may be an employment issue. And if the investigation identifies a problem, the agency will encourage mediation or another form of alternative resolution. However, both parties have to agree to the alternative method and must come to a viable agreement. It is only after mediation fails or the agency chooses not to take on the case that a lawsuit can go to court.
In this case, Kosman exhausted all of her administrative options and the EEOC issued her a “Notice of Right to Sue.” A Notice of Right to Sue is provided when an agency either did not find enough evidence to warrant legal action or the agency decided not to take the case. The Notice outlines the individual’s rights and the deadlines for bringing a lawsuit on the employment issue.
Dealing with discrimination in the workplace can be complicated and stressful on both sides, contacting an experienced Washington employment law attorney can help.