A lesbian state trooper assigned to the Maryland State Police barracks in Cumberland, Md., has filed a lawsuit accusing supervisors and co-workers of subjecting her to discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment based on her sexual orientation and gender.
Chelsea Raley, who holds the rank of Trooper First Class, states in her lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Baltimore on May 26, that the alleged discrimination against her began in June 2014, about two months after she was assigned to the Cumberland Barracks in Allegany County.
“As the only female and only homosexual State Trooper in the Cumberland Barracks, Raley has been discriminated against, retaliated against, and made to work in a hostile work environment,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit says the alleged discriminatory actions by the State Police violate Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination based on gender; and violate the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act, which, among other things, bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“Maryland State Police, through its managers, repeatedly discriminated against Raley, at least in part, because of her sexual orientation by assigning Raley more work than her colleagues, writing Raley up for minor infractions that Raley’s colleagues were not written up for, ‘target[ing]’ Raley, subjecting Raley to higher scrutiny and oversight, and allowing Raley’s personal dating life to be discussed, scrutinized, and made a joke of in the work place,” the lawsuit says.
A spokesperson for the Maryland Attorney General’s office, which is representing the State Police in court in connection with the lawsuit, did not respond to a request from the Washington Blade for comment.
Records at the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, where the lawsuit is pending, show that the State Police requested and was granted by the court an extension of time to file its response to the lawsuit. The records show that U.S. District Court Judge James Bredar set a deadline of Nov. 4 for State Police to file its response.
The court records also show that Raley initially represented herself in a “pro se” filing of the lawsuit when it was filed on May 26. A notation on the last page of the lawsuit’s complaint states, “A version of this pro se complaint was prepared by R. Scott Oswald,” an attorney with the D.C. law firm The Employment Law Group.
A June 17 court filing states that Oswald and fellow Employment Law Group attorney Michael Vogelsang Jr. had formally signed on as attorneys representing Raley in the lawsuit.
Neither Oswald nor Raley could immediately be reached for comment.
The lawsuit says Raley began her employment with the Maryland State Police in June 2008 as a civilian cadet. It says she entered the State Police Academy in February 2010 and graduated from the academy as a State Trooper on July 1, 2010.
“After three years of satisfactory service, Raley was promoted to Trooper First Class in February 2013,” the lawsuit says. It says that prior to being assigned to the Cumberland Barracks Raley served in various assignments in the cities of College Park, Rockville and Frederick.
The lawsuit’s complaint filed on May 26, meanwhile, says an in-house State Police investigation appears to have substantiated Raley’s allegations of discrimination.
“Maryland State Police management has knowledge of Raley’s treatment, and despite substantiating Raley’s claims through an Office of Fair Practices investigation, has not taken action to remedy the discrimination, retaliation, or hostile work environment Raley continues to experience,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit notes that the State Police’s Office of Fair Practices, which is charged with investigating allegations of workplace discrimination, investigated an internal complaint that one of the barracks’ high-level officials, Lt. Homer Martz, filed on Raley’s behalf. Martz filed the complaint under Raley’s name after Raley informed him of the discrimination she believed she was facing on the job, the lawsuit says.
“On May 7, 2015, the Office of Fair Practices issued Raley a letter stating, ‘it has been determined that there was evidence to support the allegations of discrimination based on sex (gender), sexual orientation and retaliation,’” the lawsuit says. “’Therefore, appropriate corrective action will be taken to address the violation,’” the lawsuit quotes the letter as saying.
But according to the lawsuit, no noticeable corrective action appeared to take place as a result of the Office of Fair Practices determination, and Raley continued to encounter discriminatory actions.
“Since filing the complaint, many of the male troopers at the Cumberland Barracks have made Raley the subject of their jokes, comments, and jabs,” the lawsuit says, contributing to the hostile workplace Raley has been encountering.
The lawsuit says the discriminatory actions against her included false allegations by her immediate supervisor, Corp. Theodore Bell, that she was not responding to a sufficient amount of calls for police service and she improperly made Facebook postings on the job and posted information about work-related issues against State Police regulations. The lawsuit says those accusations are false.
Bell also appeared to be attempting to orchestrate giving Raley a low performance rating by giving her a larger case load than her male colleagues, the lawsuit says.
“Bell was giving Raley more work than her male counterparts despite the fact that Raley had never worked at a full service barracks before and her male counterparts had prior full service barracks experience before,” the lawsuit says.
One question LGBT rights attorneys may have for Raley and her attorneys is why her lawsuit didn’t make the legal claim that Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act covers sexual orientation as a form of sex discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and some federal courts have recognized that sexual orientation “qualifies” as discrimination on the basis of “sex” within the meaning of Title VII.
One possible answer to that question is Raley didn’t have to make that claim because the Maryland non-discrimination law that she has invoked in her lawsuit explicitly prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. LGBT rights attorneys have attempted to use the Title VII claim in cases filed in states that do not have legal LGBT rights protections like Maryland.