`

Judge denies summary judgment on claim of sex discrimination by state police

November 28, 2016

A federal judge has denied summary judgment in favor of Indiana State Police in a sex discrimination case, finding that a former officer’s evidence in the case creates a factual dispute about her claim that the department decline to hire her for a civilian position after her retirement because she is a woman.

In Shannon Spreckelmeyer v. Indiana State Police Department, 1:15-cv-00912, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted ISP’s motion for summary judgment on Spreckelmeyer’s claim of retaliation but declined to do the same on her claim of discrimination against her because she is a woman.

The case began in September 2013 when Spreckelmeyer, then an analytical/unit supervisor in the Laboratory Division’s forensic latent prints unit, first contacted ISP Superintendent Douglas Carter about the possibility of continuing work in her department as a civilian after her retirement  July 5, 2014.

In her email to Carter, Spreckelmeyer wrote that her desire to transition to a civilian position after her retirement mirrored the situation of Mark Keisler, who held an equivalent position in the Laboratory Division’s firearms unit. After his retirement, Keisler became the civilian supervisor of the firearms unit. The position he filled as a civilian was never opened for bidding.

Spreckelmeyer never received a response to her email from Carter, so she sent another message to him in March 2014 complaining that she had not been able to get a consistent answer about the fate of her employment after retirement. Spreckelmeyer wrote that she had been told on one occasion that no position would be available after her retirement, and on another occasion that there would be no money to retain her. She also pointed out that a position was moved from her unit to the firearms unit to ensure that Keisler could be retained as a civilian.

Carter responded a week later and told Spreckelmeyer that he was doing the best he could to provide her answers before her retirement, and also wrote in regard to Keisler that “comparing one employee issue to another, or one job to another, generally speaking is an unfair comparison.”

State police did not create a civilian latent print supervisor position until six months after Spreckelmeyer retired. Although she learned of the opening, Spreckelmeyer chose not to apply because Keisler had not applied for his civilian position, court documents say. Further, she had previously applied for a lab manager position, but the position was given to a male internal candidate.

Spreckelmeyer filed discrimination claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in December 2014, alleging retaliation and sex discrimination, and ISP moved for summary judgment on both claims.

Specifically, Spreckelmeyer argued that the two emails she sent to Carter described or inferred sex discrimination by ISP when it transitioned Keisler into his civilian position, and that ISP had refused to do the same for her, in part, because of the emails. But in her grant of summary judgment in favor of ISP on the retaliation claim, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt wrote in an opinion posted just before Thanksgiving that the two emails Spreckelmeyer sent to Carter “did not discuss, infer, or complaint about any unlawful discrimination on the basis of any protected class.”

Spreckelmeyer further argued in the discrimination claim that she was treated less favorably than similarly situated employees, specifically Keisler, because she was a woman. But ISP argued that she could not have been treated less favorably because there was no similarly situated employee and because it had legitimate reasons not to retain her as a civilian, such as monetary reasons and the fact that she did not apply for the civilian position when it came open.

But Pratt wrote in her opinion that there was evidence to suggest that ISP had created differences between Keisler and Spreckelmeyer to support her claim of sex discrimination. Specifically, Pratt pointed to the fact that state police had moved a position out of her unit into Keisler’s firearms unit in order to generate the funds to keep him on as a civilian.

“The designated evidence … shows a dispute of material fact regarding whether Spreckelmeyer suffered an adverse employment reaction, and thus, the resolution of this issue should be decided at trial, not on summary judgment,” the judge wrote.

Captain David Bursten, ISP chief public information officer, said the police department does not comment on active cases.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Recent Articles by Olivia Covington