Thursday, September 18, 2008

Austin Police Department Faces Discrimination Lawsuit


Recent events have provided great examples of the strides that women have made towards professional equality in this country. We saw a woman come close to receiving the presidential nomination from a major political party, and the other party select a female as its vice-presidential candidate. Women are successful CEOs at major corporations, astronauts, diplomats and any other profession you can imagine. However, in Austin, three female police officers allege that discrimination is alive and well in their department. The women filed suit against the city yesterday in state District Court accusing Austin of violating the state's labor codes.

Sgts. Linda Ponder and Mary Hesalroad and Lt. Deborah Sawyer call out two specific supervisors for their inappropriate behavior towards female officers. One man, Cmdr. Calvin Smith, is accused of telling a cadet class that the city "even hires women" now and that some of these women can grow mustaches to match the men. Smith was given a previous suspension for comments he made expressing his concern over the message being sent by the transfer of gay women in the department. The other man named in the lawsuit, Lt. Randall Pasley, is said to have made harrassing comments and treated his female officers differently than the men under his supervision.

The attorney for the two women, Mark Anthony Sanchez out of San Antonio, uses an interesting analogy to describe the grievances held by his clients. He stated, "The Austin Police Department has been systematically Tasering the civil rights of women in the upper echelons of the Police Department." This quote seems to imply that the problems within the department run deeper than the actions of two men. We will see if these accusations prove valid in the courtroom.

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys in our Austin, Houston, and San Antonio offices who focus on business litigation. If you are a private business owner who is facing a discrimination lawsuit like the one facing the Austin Police Department, please contact us and let's discuss your situation.

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