SEPTA cop sues agency over harassing, discriminatory treatment

By Jon Campisi | Nov 27, 2013

A female police officer for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is suing the mass transit agency for $100,000 over allegations that her career has been marked by constant harassment and gender discrimination.

Barbara Davis, who was first hired by SEPTA in the summer of 2005, claims in her lawsuit that she began experiencing sexual harassment during the first year of her employment as a police officer.

The first incident occurred in late 2006, when a fellow SEPTA cop allegedly said in reference to the plaintiff, “That dumb [expletive] is going to get herself shot.”

The comment came in response to the plaintiff’s assertion that the male officer was not supposed to be in the area of a specific SEPTA cashier booth during the course of his patrol.

Davis claims she complained about the comment to both a sergeant and the agency’s then-police chief, Richard Evans, but that no remedial action was ever taken.

During a March 2010 incident, the complaint states, another male officer made a sexual comment to the plaintiff regarding the purported size of his genitalia.

And again, no disciplinary action was taken, despite the fact that Davis complained about the treatment.

The suit goes on to reference an incident that occurred on the day of the deadly duck boat accident on the Delaware River, in which two youngsters from Europe died when the amphibious tourist vehicle in which they were riding was struck by a sludge barge being pushed by a tugboat.

On the day of that accident, Davis had to use a vehicle normally used by another officer, the lawsuit states.

When she went to pick up the vehicle, however, she found that the male officer had placed a locking device on the steering wheel, preventing the plaintiff from being able to use the vehicle.

Again, SEPTA allegedly failed to take correction action against the male officer.

Davis claims she never heard back from SEPTA human resource officials, who had vowed to look into the allegations of harassment and mistreatment.

The lawsuit goes on to list other examples of harassing and discriminatory treatment perpetuated against the plaintiff, including an incident in mid-July 2011, during which the plaintiff was told to “shut the [expletive] up” by a fellow officer during an incident in which Davis was providing backup for colleagues during an arrest.

Despite the fact that Davis complained about the incident, no remedial action was ever taken against the male officer who made the offending comment, the complaint alleges.

“Plaintiff asserts that the harassment by the Defendant because of Plaintiff’s gender was pervasive and regular,” the suit states. “Plaintiff was detrimentally affected because the harassment caused her stress, emotional distress, migraine headaches, insomnia, anxiety and fear, which adversely affected her work.”

SEPTA is accused of violating the Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

The suit contains counts of gender discrimination and retaliation.

Davis seeks lost wages and benefits, loss of future earning power, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, interest and litigation costs.

She is being represented by Philadelphia attorney Olugbenga O. Abiona.


The federal case number is 2:13-cv-06864-MSG. 

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