TruthSayers has been in the business of “punching up” with original, locally-focused investigative reporting since October 2016, when founder Josh Brokaw published his first story on the site. That story, on the illegal firing of two Cayuga Medical Center nurses for union organizing activity, was only the first of many stories Brokaw reported on the…Continue Reading “TruthSayers is Hiring: Help Us Make Headlines”
Photos by Josh Brokaw email@example.com The annual Labor Day picnic was held on Monday, September 3, at Stewart Park. Your correspondent was there with his trusty 12-year-old Pentax SLR and shot some photos of all the fun. Between setting up the TruthSayers typewriters, shooting photos, eating, and talking to people about my sheriff candidacy [read…Continue Reading “Photos & Awardees: Labor Day Picnic 2018”
By Josh Brokaw
A lawsuit filed by an Ithaca Police Department officer alleging discrimination and retaliation against her because of her sexual orientation will move forward, after a federal judge issued a ruling in the case on Wednesday, March 21.
Sarah Crews, an IPD officer since 2007, filed a lawsuit in federal court in February 2017 against the City of Ithaca and former chief John Barber. The 28-page ruling, which you can view in full at the bottom of the page, was issued by U.S. district judge Mae D’Agostino in response to the city’s “motion to dismiss” Crews’ lawsuit.
In her decision issued Wednesday, D’Agostino summarized Crews’ argument like this:
“In essence, Plaintiff’s problem is that the Search and Jail Policies are blind to her sexual orientation. Thus, Plaintiff is arguing that IPD created an objectively hostile work environment by not treating her differently on the basis of her sexual orientation.”
The IPD’s Search and Jail policies were updated in 2011 to read that “whenever possible,” a female officer will transport female prisoners, and that only female officers should search female prisoners. This policy, the lawsuit argues, has put Crews into an “inordinate amount of compromising situations” with prisoners that male officers have avoided, including an incident in March 2011 when a female prisoner threatened to claim harassment against Crews and started masturbating in the officer’s presence. The lawsuit says that Crews made “dozens” of verbal complaints about the policy, before formally voicing her concern in writing in May 2015.
From that point on, the lawsuit argues that Crews was retaliated against for speaking out, first by being assigned to beats she did not prefer. Two notices of discipline issued to Crews since 2015 are also claimed to be retaliatory, stemming from incidents when Crews says she expressed frustration with the policy.
Here’s the gist of Crews’ complaint, taken from the lawsuit, which you can view in full at this link:
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Crews filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in August 2016, and was granted the right to sue by the EEOC in November 2016.
The city of Ithaca, represented by Earl T. Redding, of Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux, Albany, argued in their motion to dismiss that the claim of sexual orientation discrimination is not protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Since the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on February 26 that Title VII does apply to sexual orientation. D’Agostino denied the motion to dismiss on those grounds.
“This is cutting edge law for the gay community,” Crews’ attorney, Edward Kopko, told TruthSayers. “This is predicated on some tectonic shifts in the law from the Second Circuit … They reversed some longstanding precedents and entered a decision in the Zarda case that was very significant”
To determine that there is a case of discrimination, the judge must see a “materially adverse change” in the terms of employment. A reprimand or excessive scrutiny aren’t enough in the case law to prove discrimination. D’Agostino ruled that the vacation time Crews lost was “a sufficient loss of benefits to establish an adverse action” under discrimination law.
D’Agostino dismissed the city’s argument that the rule prohibiting male officers from searching females is a “bona fide occupational qualification,” which would create an exception from Title VII if the rule is “reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business.” The arguments made by the city in support of its Search & Jail Policies so far, D’Agostino wrote, “are unable to show that the policy was not discriminatory or that there was no reasonable alternative.”
The case will now enter its discovery stage, when the two sides identify potential witnesses and relevant documents to each other and the judge.
“We’re excited about this partial victory but we’re going to remain vigilant,” Kopko said. Kopko plans on appealing the parts of the city’s motion to dismiss that D’Agostino did grant, so that those portions of the complaint won’t considered in the final decision. Those include Crews’ initial complaint about beat assignments, and a notice of discipline from October 2015, because they are are “time barred” — outside of the time window that can be considered in the suit.
“The city could change this [policy] by one signature by the mayor,” Kopko said. “The whole purpose of the lawsuit is to get the city to change its policy. If the city won’t change its policy, we’re going to ask a federal judge to change its policy because a federal judge has the authority to do that.”
A request for comment to the City of Ithaca’s attorney office was not returned by end of business on Thursday, March 22.
SUPPORT MORE TRUTHSAYERS REPORTING BY MAKING A DONATION TO THIS INDEPENDENT MEDIA OUTLET TODAY By Josh Brokaw email@example.com Advocates for the rights of farmworkers in New York were disappointed this week by a judge choosing not to strike down the exemption in New York state law that prevents agricultural workers from organizing unions. On Tuesday, January 18,…Continue Reading “Denied Again: Farmworkers’ Right to Organize”
Support More TruthSayers Reporting by Making a Donation to this Independent Media Outlet Today By Josh Brokaw firstname.lastname@example.org Cayuga Medical Center, Tompkins County’s only hospital, has been found guilty of violating federal law for firing nurses Anne Marshall and Loran Lamb. The decision, released on January 9, 2018, is the second time a National Labor…Continue Reading “Judge: Cayuga Medical Broke Federal Law, Again”
KEEP IN-DEPTH TRUTHSAYERS REPORTING COMING BY MAKING A DONATION TODAY. By Josh Brokaw email@example.com Three members of the National Labor Relations Board have reviewed the first case brought against Cayuga Medical Center for union busting, and affirmed a judge’s earlier decision that Tompkins County’s only hospital is guilty of breaking federal labor law. The National Labor Relations…Continue Reading “Upheld: Cayuga Medical Broke Federal Law”
TruthSayers News will be bringing its typewriters on Monday to the 34th annual Labor Day Picnic in Ithaca, held this year at Cass Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. So if you’re off work on Labor Day, come to Cass Park and type your truth, like these TruthSayers staffers did at Ithaca Festival. But…Continue Reading “Are You Working on Labor Day? Tell TruthSayers Your Story”
By Josh Brokaw Workers and business owners of Tompkins County should familiarize themselves with two new numbers: 13.90 and 15.11. $13.90 is the new living wage per hour for workers in Tompkins County whose employers provide them with health insurance. $15.11 is the living wage per hour, as calculated by Alternatives Federal Credit Union, for…Continue Reading “New Living Wage Target Announced For Tompkins County”
Support More Independent Reporting on Local Health Care by Donating to TruthSayers Today By Josh Brokaw firstname.lastname@example.org Under a New York State law passed in 2010 and made effective by the state Department of Health in 2015, hospitals and nursing homes are required to disclose a certain number of “nursing quality indicators” for the previous…Continue Reading “Data: Cayuga Medical Center Nurse Staffing”
By Josh Brokaw Construction on the Harold’s Square building is finally close to starting on the south side of the Ithaca Commons, so it seems, after four-plus years of public starts and stops. Developer David Lubin, of Horseheads’ “L Properties,” and the “Harold’s Holdings LLC” entity set up to build the 12-story building, received a…Continue Reading “Harold’s Square On Its Way: Tax Break Granted Over Vocal Opposition”