RICHMOND (CBS SF) — A records specialist at the Richmond Police Department alleges that some of the department’s top brass discriminated against her due to her religious views and wrongfully terminated her, in part because she allegedly discriminated against a lesbian police volunteer.
The city of Richmond was named in the suit filed in federal court on Wednesday, but most of the allegations are aimed at Chief Chris Magnus and department veteran Lt. Lori Curran.
Both Magnus and Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan both flatly denied the claims, calling them “baseless.” Richmond City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller said the city had not yet been served with the complaint as of this afternoon and therefore could not comment.
The suit alleges that members of the police department violated the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Loudesia Flanagan, who is a devout Christian, according to the complaint. The defendants’ actions caused her “loss of employment, indignity, great humiliation and emotional stress,” the complaint reads.
Although co-workers were well aware of her deep religious beliefs during her 23 years at the department, the complaint alleges, the defendants “continually attempted to quash those beliefs, and punish (the) plaintiff for expressing those beliefs in the workplace.”
According to the complaint, police higher-ups subjected Flanagan to an investigation and inappropriate discipline when she wore a “Christmas hat” to work.
Flanagan’s lawyers, Scott Brown and David Poore, could not be reached for comment Thursday and weren’t available to describe the attire.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges, the defendants illegally searched the plaintiff’s secured work locker after seeing a daily prayer she kept there.
After Flanagan filed a workplace complaint against Lt. Curran in 2012 that she said went ignored, she lodged an additional complaint alleging corruption within the department under Magnus’s leadership.
According to the suit, both Magnus and Curran were “furious” when they discovered the complaints against them and looked for any reason to fire Flanagan.
That was also why Curran and the chief unearthed a formal complaint filed by a police department volunteer who alleged that Flanagan harassed her and refused to let her into the department building because she was a lesbian, according to the complaint.
After what the lawsuit alleges was an “openly biased” investigation into the 2012 complaint, Flanagan was placed on administrative leave in April 2013.
At that time, the plaintiff filed another complaint against the defendants, alleging that they were taking action against her because she is black, according to the lawsuit. After further review of the complaints against her, she was fired in October.
A third-party arbitrator upheld the department’s disciplinary action against Flanagan and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed her complaint filed against the department, finding no merit, according to Capt. Mark Gagan.
Her administrative leave and firing came after two separate incidents in which she “infringed upon other employees’ and volunteers’ rights,” he said.
“I have firsthand knowledge of what occurred in the workplace and why she was terminated and I feel it was absolutely the appropriate course of action,” Gagan said.
In an e-mail, Magnus said today that “making difficult decisions of this kind mean you are always vulnerable to lawsuits,” calling it an “unpleasant but necessary” part of his job.
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