N. Melville Jones, an openly gay Philadelphia police officer, settled his antibias lawsuit against the city in return for expanded LGBT-related sensitivity training within the police force and other concessions.
The case was scheduled for a bench trial next month but on Sept. 2 both sides settled the case, after conferring with Common Pleas Judge Idee C. Fox.
Jones, a 17-year veteran of the force, alleged a supervisor outed him throughout the department, triggering pervasive harassment and discrimination. 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. Jones also claimed he witnessed numerous colleagues experience anti-LGBT bias.
He filed suit against the city in 2013, seeking in excess of $50,000 in damages. The city tried to have a major portion of Jones’ case dismissed, but in February a judge denied that request and Commonwealth Court denied permission for an interim appeal.
Gerald J. Pomerantz, an attorney for Jones, said the city has agreed to sponsor sensitivity training to ensure LGBT employees within the police force work in a bias-free environment.
“It will be groundbreaking,” Pomerantz told PGN, noting officers do receive LGBT sensitivity training, but that this will additionally address “how one police officer deals with another police officer with respect to their LGBT status. It’s an acknowledgement that this type of training is needed.”
Mark McDonald, a spokesperson for the Nutter administration, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Pomerantz said Jones is pleased with the outcome.
“Officer Jones is relieved to know the city has acknowledged that changes need to be made,” Pomerantz continued. “And he’s very happy the city is going to do something that’s good for him and his fellow officers, regardless of whether or not they’re in the LGBT community. This is good for everybody.”
The settlement also contains a financial component, but details weren’t available at press time.
On Sept. 8, PGN filed an open-records request, seeking the amount of city tax funds expended to settle the case.