Louisiana Record

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Louisiana court dismisses most claims against Sheriff’s Office alleging anti-male bias

Federal Court

By John Sammon | Mar 25, 2020

Gusman
Sheriff Gusman

NEW ORLEANS - The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana partially dismissed a claim from a man who sued the Orleans Parrish Sheriff’s Office (OPSO) alleging that a female captain of the force discriminated against him because he is a man.

“Sutherland alleges Captain Taylor told him they did not really need male security deputies working in the Food Service Division,” the allegation said.

The plaintiff Tyronne C. Sutherland was employed in the Food Service Division of OPSO for 28 years until he was allegedly forced into retirement in June 2017.

Sutherland alleged that a captain at the Sheriff’s Office and female supervisor, Cathy Taylor, discriminated against Sutherland and other male employees due to their gender and created a hostile work environment. He alleged that male employees were held to a higher level of scrutiny than female employees. For example he claimed that male employees were repeatedly written up, reprimanded or disciplined for relatively minor mistakes when female employees were not.

Sutherland said that because he made a gender discrimination complaint, he was moved from a position he had held for 28 years to a new job with $300 less per pay period.

“The court agrees with Sutherland that the facts alleged in his complaint are sufficient to state a plausible claim for retaliation,” the opinion stated. "The court finds that the transfer and reduction in pay might well have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. In this case, Sutherland alleges that the transfer compelled him to retire early. Viewing the facts alleged in the light most favorable to Sutherland, the court finds that he has stated a plausible claim for retaliation under Title VII (discrimination by an employer).”

The plaintiff filed a gender discrimination complaint in June of 2017 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then a lawsuit in May of 2019. Other defendants listed in addition to Taylor were Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Johnette Staes, Scott Colvin and Gary Maynard.

In June of 2016, the Sheriff’s Office appointed an independent jail compliance officer who would have the final say in job reassignments of the kind that impacted Sutherland. With the appointment the question became, was Sheriff Gusman liable, a proper defendant in the case?

Maynard appeared at court and Sutherland agreed to dismiss the complaint against him.

“Sutherland represented he does not oppose a motion to dismiss claims against the OPSO, Staes, Colvin and Taylor, or any complaints of race discrimination under Title VII,” the opinion said.

However, the court found that Sutherland’s allegation was sufficient to make a claim under Title VII for gender discrimination.

“The defendants’ argument the Sheriff cannot be held liable in his official capacity under Title VII due to the appointment of the compliance director; the motion to dismiss must be denied,” the brief explained.

The U.S. District Court dropped claims against the OPSO, Staes, Colvin, and Taylor, also claims of race discrimination or retaliation for race discrimination under Title VII.

"As to Sutherland’s Title VII claims for retaliation and gender discrimination, the motion to dismiss is denied," the court opinion said. "The sole remaining defendant is the Sheriff."

 

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