NYPD Faces Class Action for Discrimination and Retaliation Against LGBT Officers

A complaint has been filed in the Southern District of New York against the New York city police department (NYPD) claiming that LGBT officers are routinely discriminated against, and after they seek redress, retaliated against for doing so. The complaint seeks class action status to cover all officers who have experienced or will experience similar treatment.

Lisette Torres has been an officer with the NYPD for over twenty years, 19 of which she was stationed at the 48th precent in the Bronx, according to the complaint. She claims she “enjoyed an exemplary record” for most of that time, until the discrimination began.

Torres and fellow officer Migdalia Chu had a casual friendship and often socialized outside of work, according to the complaint. But after Torres informed Chu that she was a lesbian and in a committed relationship with another officer, Lisa Velez, Torres claims “Chu began publicly exhibiting offensive and humiliating language and behavior towards . . . Torres regarding Torres’ sexuality and Velez’s gender expression.”

Torres claims that these comments were often made in the presence of supervisors, who had a duty to act to address the discriminatory conduct, but did not.

One such incident occurred at the precinct and ended with Chu’s partner having to restrain her from physically attacking Torres and was witnessed by supervising officers, who again did nothing, according to the complaint.

In August 2015 Torres filed a complaint with the NYPD Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office.  Torres claims that almost immediately after doing so she began to experience an increased hostile work environment. The claim was denied in December 2015. Torres claims the investigation was inadequate in that it “relied only on the personal opinion of” her superior officer.

Torres and her domestic partner, Velez, were then subjected to serious disciplinary actions. During the procedure Torres learned that the EEO complaint had not been kept confidential as required, but instead forwarded to the Internal Affairs Board (IAB) for investigation. She claims that the NYPD used her “complaint regarding being the victim of discrimination and a hostile work environment to then retaliate against [her] by initiating disciplinary action against her instead of against her harasser.”

Torres claims that this practice by the NYPD causes underreporting among officers. To compound the problem, she says that officers are “barred from filing a complaint through confidential channels such as by telephone.” Officers are instead required to report to EEO’s “very public” office to file a complaint in person, a stage of the process that “involves waiting, exposed, in the hall outside the EEO office or inside the glass doors of the EEO office.”

Torres further claims that the majority of complaints that are actually filed with the EEO are disposed of by “Administrative Closing,” a highly discretionary decision made by the deputy commissioner of the EEO that no further investigation is necessary, rather than conducting a full investigation.

The suit seeks class action status to include [a]ll Police Officers currently employed or who will become employed by the [NYPD] and subject to the Policies and Practices of the NYPD’s [EEO] Office.”

Torres is represented by Yetta Kurland of New York city.