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By John McCoy
A transfer to Detroit was widely seen as what happened to state troopers with disciplinary problems, so when Linda Mys got transferred from her post in Newaygo, Mich., to the Motor City, she saw it as retaliation.
At the time, the 180-mile commute would’ve offered plenty of time for Mys to think about what prompted the transfer, and if it was retaliation for the sexual harassment investigation she initiated.
A jury ultimately agreed with Mys and awarded the retired state trooper $350,000. On March 28 a federal appeals court upheld a the jury finding.
Federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for communicating with a supervisor about alleged harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lists transfer to a “less prestigious or desirable” work location as one example of possible retaliation if done in response to an employee’s protected activity.
Mys’ case stemmed from what she told her department therapist, who she was seeing due to work-related stress. “During the session she said she had been sexually assaulted by a detective in her department,” Mys’ attorney, Collin H. Nyeholt, told Bloomberg Law. Unbeknownst to Mys, the psychologist was obligated to report the accusation, which led to an investigation. Had the investigation found evidence, “it would’ve led to a criminal charge” said Nyeholt. “There wasn’t enough to go forward, and she ended up working with the guy that she had accused,” Nyeholt added.
The harassment allegedly continued after the investigation, but rather than addressing her complaint, Mys says she was relocated to a post three hours from her home.
Mys initially sued in 2010, saying that the transfer was retaliation in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. A federal jury sided with the Michigan State Police, but that verdict was ultimately overturned because evidence that would’ve been favorable to Mys wasn’t allowed to be heard at trial. The latest verdict was from an appeal by the state.
“Today’s effort was an attempt by the state to argue that the jury finding was in error,” Nyeholt said, “but if there’s even a scintilla of evidence in favor of the plaintiff, the verdict is upheld. Here, there was more like an anvil.” Nyeholt is with the Law Offices of Casey D. Conklin.
Though the case stretched on for nearly seven years, Nyeholt knows that the state still has options. “They can ask the appellate court to reconsider their finding, or take the case to the Supreme Court. I’m not sure what they’ll do,” he said.
Attorneys for the Michigan Office of the Attorney General didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is Mys v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 2018 BL 106872, 6th Cir., No. 17-1445, Jury verdict upheld 3/28/18.
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