A 16-year veteran of the Fairbanks Police Department, who had risen to the rank of detective, has resigned. He is claiming that he was forced out of the Department on account of a hostile work environment.
He follows another police officer who left the Department after saying she had experienced retaliation and sexual harassment.
She had filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which she alleged discriminatory behavior at the hands of her supervisors.
The detective, who was at one time dating the female officer who complained, provided testimony to support her allegations. He says that after that time, he began to experience adverse treatment in the workplace.
He claims that he was unfairly placed on administrative leave and, subsequently, given menial work and an office that was isolated from the rest of the Department.
Eventually, he was recommended for formal discipline and a demotion on the grounds that he had not been honest in the course of his employment.
The officer blames his treatment on his standing up for his girlfriend, but the Police Department has told a different story. They say the officer got caught lying and then got held accountable under the Department’s rules.
Employers have the right to discipline employees who break valid rules
It’s true that employers both public and private have a duty to protect employees from sexual harassment and discrimination. It is also true that employees have a right to report unlawful behavior and support official investigations.
However, employers may make rules to protect their business or agency as well as their other workers and the general public. They have every right to enforce these rules consistently, even if it means having to discipline or fire a veteran employee.
It is often too easy for an employee to allege discrimination simply because they are being punished for breaking fair and reasonable rules. Employers may have to invest in a legal defense against such claims.