PHILADELPHIA – Per a federal court, a former Philadelphia police officer’s claims of libel and slander against the City, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and former colleagues have been dismissed, but his other claims of race discrimination and retaliation remain.
Andre Boyer, an African-American and a City police officer from 1997 until 2013, filed suit in federal court for damages based on racial discrimination, retaliation and violations of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) and Whistleblower Law – subsequent to a prior lawsuit against the City and his eventual exit from the department in September 2013.
Boyer first filed a race discrimination and character defamation lawsuit against the City and Lt. Karyn Baldini in May 2012 as a result of reporting alleged wrongdoing by his fellow officers, after which Boyer said he was subject to discrimination and retaliation by those same colleagues.
Boyer stated this retaliation included unfair scrutiny of his investigations and the publishing of a report that led to his cases being “reinvestigated or not prosecuted.”
Boyer said he reported this alleged harassment to Ramsey, and about one week later, he was removed from street duty and assigned to desk duty without explanation. Boyer notifying other superiors of his situation led to no response and misconduct committed by white officers went unpunished, the plaintiff claims.
Boyer alleged he was falsely accused of stealing money from an arrestee in 2011, and subsequently brought up on internal charges from the Police Board of Inquiry (PBI). Though the PBI recommended Boyer merely be suspended, Ramsey allegedly increased Boyer’s discipline to a “suspension with intent to dismiss.” Boyer’s employment was subsequently terminated in September 2013.
Therefore, Boyer filed suit for claims of race discrimination and retaliation violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, the PHRA and the Whistleblower Law. The defendants motioned to dismiss the claims in their entirety, believing Boyer did not exhaust administrative remedies, failed to state sufficient facts to support his claims or connect those facts to his discipline and termination.
However, Judge Jan E. DuBois said Boyer both utilized the necessary administrative remedies as part of the process and illustrated a “pattern of antagonism” through the disciplinary chain of events which took place between the plaintiff’s 2012 lawsuit and his 2013 termination, making the majority of his claims valid ones in the eyes of the Court and sufficient to allege causation.
“Plaintiff has adequately pled that a pattern of discipline and unexplained antagonism consisting of changing his assignment, re-investigating or not prosecuting his cases, and ultimately terminating his employment occurred,” DuBois said. “Such allegations are sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claim that this pattern of antagonism occurred ‘because of’ plaintiff’s report of wrongdoing.”
DuBois said Boyer conceded his libel and slander claims were time-barred, and thus subject to dismissal. However, DuBois added Boyer’s claims of race discrimination and retaliation violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, PHRA and Whistleblower Law would proceed.
The plaintiff is represented by Stephen Thomas O’Hanlon of The O’Hanlon Law Firm in Philadelphia and Brian M. Puricelli in Warrington.
The defendants are represented by Melissa T. Knight of the City of Philadelphia’s Law Department and Nicole S. Morris of the City Solicitor’s Office, in Philadelphia.
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:13-cv-06495
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org