Sometimes, it just takes the courage of a few people to topple a culture of harassment, racism and retribution in the workplace. Racism and harassment retribution have no place in the world. But this three-headed Cerberus-like monster surfaces time and time again. A recent such case has been percolating in Ohio for several years as officials finally confronted a culture of racism permeating the Columbus Division of Police.
On Oct. 26, the Columbus City Council approved a $475,000 settlement to a 28-year member of the city’s police department. The police force member – Karl Shaw – is Black and faced retaliation because he reported racism and the misconduct of a superior. The settlement also declares that, in the future, such discrimination and retaliation within the Columbus Division of Police will lead to the termination of the instigators.
Discrimination, racism within the department
Officer Shaw along with three other officers filed discrimination lawsuits against the department. Shaw claimed he experienced racism soon after being hired in 1992. For example, he believed his investigations were unfairly scrutinized.
The heart of Shaw’s case stems from his 2014 application for a position in the narcotics bureau. The sergeant responsible for hiring allegedly held a racist view toward Blacks and Black officers and reportedly made violent racist threats against Shaw’s former partner.
Shaw did not get the position, which was given to a White officer with less seniority. Later, the police chief, at the time, removed the White officer from the position and placed a lieutenant in charge of filling that role. After offered the job in early 2015, Shaw declined. He alleges that the sergeant learned about Shaw’s harassment complaints to internal affairs and threatened retribution if Shaw took the job.
Shaw’s situation is not unique. An estimated 51% of officers within the Columbus Police Division reported experiencing some form of discrimination in a recent operational review.
Please, do not be afraid to report workplace discrimination and harassment. Leading up to this point, you have battled repugnant and illegal behavior from your employer. The pending challenges you face in your legal response likely will not be as rocky. And resolution is inevitable.