The D.C. Office of Human Rights on Aug. 16 issued a finding of probable cause that D.C. police officials subjected gay Officer Justin Markiewicz to discrimination and retaliation by repeatedly addressing him by the name “Justine,” according to Markiewicz’s attorney, Glen Ackerman.
“Be advised that the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights found probable cause to believe that the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia subjected Justin Markiewicz to a hostile work environment when the Police Department repeatedly identified Mr. Markiewicz as ‘Justine’ beginning in January 2014 and that it failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassing behavior,” Ackerman said in a statement released to the Washington Blade.
“The Office of Human Rights also found probable cause to believe that the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia retaliated against Mr. Markiewicz by denying his request for overtime compensation shortly after he complained about being referred to as ‘Justine’ by his colleagues,” Ackerman said in his statement.
By issuing a finding of probable cause the OHR asserts that the accused party appears to have violated the D.C. Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on a wide range of categories, including sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity and expression.
Ackerman said Markiewicz has decided not to release to the media the OHR’s official Letter of Determination of Probable Cause, in part, because police officials have accused him of sharing too much information with the press and on social media about police-related matters.
The OHR has a policy of not releasing its findings of probable cause in discrimination cases until it certifies the case for a public hearing before the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, an independent adjudicatory body that decides whether discrimination has occurred.
Under OHR rules, it doesn’t certify a case to go before the Commission on Human Rights until the two parties enter into discussions for a possible conciliation agreement to settle the case after a finding of probable cause has been issued.
Ackerman declined to comment on what conditions Markiewicz might request in order to reach a conciliation agreement, saying such information involves internal strategy that he cannot disclose at this time.
“Mr. Markiewicz is doing what he loves,” Ackerman said in his statement. “He is safeguarding the District of Columbia and protecting its residents and visitors by providing the highest quality of police service with integrity, compassion, and a commitment to innovation that integrate people, technology and progressive business systems.”
News that Markiewicz had filed a discrimination complaint with the OHR surfaced earlier this year when Markiewicz filed a separate lawsuit against the city to obtain email and cell phone records of several police officials, including Police Chief Cathy Lanier.
The lawsuit, filed in D.C. Superior Court, accused the city of failing to comply with Markiewicz’s Freedom of Information Act request for the phone and email records. The lawsuit didn’t say why Markiewicz was seeking those records. But sources familiar with the department said the FOIA case was filed at a time when Markiewicz was considering filing a discrimination complaint with the OHR over allegations of a hostile work environment.
A Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit on technical grounds, saying Markiewicz’s lawyer failed to notify the city about the suit by a required deadline. However, prior to the dismissal of the suit, police officials complied with Markiewicz’s FOIA request and turned over the information he sought, according to his lawyer at that time.
The city’s Capital Pride organization honored Markiewicz in June 2015 with its annual Hero Award for what it said was his exemplary work as a member of the police LGBT Liaison Unit. A short time later, Markiewicz requested and received permission to leave the liaison unit to return to a previous assignment as a patrol officer in the Sixth Police District. Police sources said his reason for leaving the LGBT unit was the alleged hostile work environment he faced there from police officials who had jurisdiction over the unit.
D.C. police spokesperson Aquita Brown said her office was working on getting a response to a request by the Blade for a police department comment on the OHR finding or probable cause in the Markiewicz case.