A new civil suit filed in federal court paints the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia as a house of dysfunction and harassment, where officers employed to patrol the federal building routinely gave a female colleague a hard time.
Carmen McClain, who began her career as a police officer at the Mint in Washington, D.C. in January 2000, but months later was transferred to the Philadelphia Mint, where she works to this day, alleges she has been the victim of a pattern of widespread discrimination.
She even claims she was once the recipient of a veiled death threat by a fellow officer.
Problems allegedly began back in late 2002 when McClain filed an administrative complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over incidents during the prior year that included her demotion to day shift from evening shift, which meant a pay reduction.
The issue ended up being settled out of court, and McClain was soon transferred back to her preferred night shift, although the woman claims she was soon subjected to harassment due to her speaking out about the issue.
After being moved back to the evening shift, the lawsuit states, a supervisor made an inappropriate sexual remark to McClain.
That supervisor was later forced to retire due to the incident, the record shows.
Meanwhile, the plaintiff was soon subjected to what the suit calls a “humiliating and abusive” coin toss to resolve an impasse concerning shift work.
Neither McClain nor another officer had wanted to take the lower-paying shift, and it was determined that a coin toss would be the best way to resolve the matter, since both the plaintiff and the other officer had equal seniority.
Years later, in the spring of 2009, the complaint shows, McClain filed another EEOC complaint, this one for retaliation.
The plaintiff says she was subjected to another humiliating coin toss, this one to resolve who would work the Memorial Day holiday.
McClain refused to work because she had already gotten another officer to cover her shift.
The plaintiff ended up receiving a formal write-up for insubordination for not working, the lawsuit states.
That second coin toss mirrored the one from years prior, the complaint says, and “re-stimulated all the humiliation and fear that [McClain] felt in 2001 and 2002.”
McClain claims that from that point forward, she was subjected to hostile treatment by fellow officers who blamed the woman for the forced retirement of the lieutenant who had earlier made the inappropriate sexual remark to McClain, and for other problems.
The officers, the complaint reads, were “enraged” by McClain’s outmaneuvering them back in 2002, and the colleagues held grudges because of the plaintiff’s opposition to the illegal shift change and surrounding events early last decade.
On New Year’s Eve 2008, McClain was ordered to participate in yet another coin toss to determine what officer would sit out the Jan. 1, 2009 holiday shift.
“Rather than suffer the same humiliation that occurred in the previous ‘coin-toss’ scenarios, Plaintiff refused the ‘coin toss’ and agreed to work,” the lawsuit states.
Nevertheless, McClain claims she was routinely harassed, ignored and ostracized from that point forward.
“Plaintiff’s co-workers stopped talking to her and treated her like a ‘snitch’ and a pariah,” the complaint states.
Beginning in late 2007, McClain was singled out and given the least desirable assignments, and in May 2008 one of McClain’s shift supervisors went to the police chief to complain that the woman was being discriminated against and treated abusively by a sergeant identified as Mark Robinson, the suit states.
McClain was interviewed during a supervisory inquiry, but the treatment seemed to continue.
In the summer of 2008, the suit says, Robinson, who is also named as a defendant in the litigation, singled out McClain and verbally reprimanded the woman over a parking infraction.
Other officers who committed the same violation were apparently never reprimanded.
At one point, Officer Gerard Woodruff, who is also named as a co-defendant, made threats against McClain in front of other officers.
According to the suit, Woodruff said, “I’m going to right [sic] her up for insubordination that’s what they want upstairs, and if she thinks she [sic] going to sue me, and take food out of my children’s mouth, she is mistaken I will hurt her, take her in the woods and she won’t come out.”
The suit goes on to claim that in October 2010, while the plaintiff was at the gun range for mandatory firearms training, Robinson, the sergeant, came into the range and purposely interfered with McClain’s shooting, with the goal of causing the plaintiff to fail her qualifications test.
McClain ultimately passed the test.
The lawsuit, which names additional officers as well as Jacob Lew, the secretary of the U.S. Mint, as codefendants, asserts that the actions described by McClain violate the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act.
The civil action contains counts of retaliation and hostile work environment.
McClain claims that she has experienced emotional distress, mental anguish and a loss of life’s enjoyment as a result of the treatment at work.
She also says she has developed chronic anxiety attacks, and suffers from severe sleep deprivation and depression as the result of the workplace incidents.
McClain seeks declaratory judgment that the defendants have violated federal law, as well as unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs, pre-and-post-judgment interest, and other court relief.
The plaintiff is being represented by Philadelphia attorney Robin W. Banister.
The federal case number is 2:13-cv-05412-GP.