Black Officer Who Harassed Lesbian Employees Loses Bias Claims

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By Jay-Anne B. Casuga

Sept. 2 — A black George Washington University police supervisor who allegedly harassed lesbian officers must do more than claim his comments were innocent or misinterpreted in order to challenge his discharge as discriminatory, a federal judge ruled ( Ladson v. George Washington Univ. , 2016 BL 286722, D.D.C., No. 14-001586, 9/1/16 ).

For their federal and Washington, D.C., law race bias claims to survive to trial, fired employees must call into question an employer’s stated reasons for termination. The ruling Sept. 1 by Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia provides practitioners with an example of what type of employee evidence will be insufficient.

The judge agreed with Todd Ladson that courts should treat an employer’s subjective evaluations of an employee’s behavior “with caution.”

However, there was nothing subjective about the university’s reliance on the testimony of multiple female officers to discharge Ladson, he found, ruling in GW’s favor on Ladson’s race bias claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act.

The university conducted an investigation during which current and former female officers alleged that Ladson asked them if they were sexually involved with other female officers, said he doesn’t “approve of homosexuals” and tried to convince them that they “should be with men.”

The officers further claimed Ladson’s repeated behavior made it difficult for lesbians to be accepted at work.

Ladson didn’t rebut the testimony as false, but seemingly argued that what “might be offensive and harassing to one person” might be “viewed as in perfectly good fun to someone else,” the judge said.

The university’s “consideration of Plaintiff’s well-documented boorish and crude behavior is not the kind of ‘subjective consideration’ that is cautioned against by the court,” Mehta said.

Additionally, Ladson failed to show GW’s investigation was unfair, or that white police supervisors who engaged in similar misbehavior received more lenient discipline, he said.

Arinderjit Dhali of Dhali in Washington represented Ladson. Raymond C. Baldwin and Christine M. Constantino of Seyfarth Shaw in Washington represented the university.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at

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