Common Pleas Judge Linda A. Carpenter last week refused to postpone a trial in the antibias case of N. Melville Jones.
Jones, an openly gay police officer, claims pervasive anti-LGBT workplace bias and harassment at the Philadelphia Police Department.
He’s seeking more than $50,000 in damages. A non-jury trial is scheduled for April 28. But city attorneys want the scope of the trial limited to the alleged actions of Jones’ former supervisor, C. Daniel Castro.
Castro outed Jones, triggering a chain of events that caused Jones to be victimized by workplace homophobia, according to Jones’ lawsuit.
Alleged acts of bias against Jones include being sent out on patrol without proper uniform and weaponry, being asked if he gets paid while having sex in the men’s locker room and being transferred to the “graveyard” shift.
In February, in a three-page ruling, Carpenter rejected the city’s request to limit the scope of the trial.
Last week, she also rejected the city’s request for permission to pursue an interim appeal in Commonwealth Court.
The city is permitted to go directly into Commonwealth Court to pursue an interim appeal. By presstime, city attorneys hadn’t decided whether to do so.
An interim appeal in Commonwealth Court could delay the trial for several months, noted Barak A. Kassutto, an attorney for Jones.
This week, Kassutto said his client is eager to have his day in court.
“Officer Jones has been waiting for his day in court for several years now,” Kassutto told PGN. “We have a specified court date, and we want it to proceed as scheduled. The longer this goes on, the longer my client’s grievances remain unaddressed.”
Kassutto also said a timely trial could benefit other city workers in similar situations.
“It’s not just my client who will benefit from a prompt trial, but other people who may also be enduring similar problems with the city.”
City attorneys contend Jones failed to file administrative complaints against coworkers other than Castro, so only Castro’s actions should be considered at trial.
But Kassutto maintains the city is wrong in holding that position.
“My client diligently pursued all pre-trial requirements, and fully exhausted his administrative remedies before filing suit [in 2013],” he said.
Kassutto said a timely trial would send a “clear message” to the city that an anti-LGBT work environment is unacceptable.
“Officer Jones is, and was, owed a workplace free from discrimination,” he concluded. “Now that the city has failed to deliver a bias-free work environment, he’s owed his day in court. And it should be sooner rather than later.”
Castro no longer works for the city. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion in an unrelated matter and was sentenced to 60 months in prison. His release date is set for April 7, 2016.
He’s expected to testify during trial via a remote hook-up from prison.
From our media partner PGN