Former Probationary Officer Files Lawsuit Against Elk Grove Police, Claims Sexual Orientation Discrimination
A former officer with the Elk Grove Police Department has filed a lawsuit against his former employer claiming, among other things, he was terminated based on sexual orientation discrimination.
[Ed. note - this story includes the graphic description of some events mentioned in the lawsuit that some readers may find disturbing and is not suitable for children].
The plaintiff, Jeremy Lemire was a probationary police officer who was hired in June 2014 and terminated on February 25, 2016. Before being hired by the EGPD, Lemire served in the United States Army and as a civilian contractor between 2003 and 2014, including two terms in combat and was honorably discharged in 2014. (Lawsuit can be viewed here, registration required).
According to the filing, Lemire claimed he was fired because of his sexual orientation. Lemire is openly Gay and described the working condition and co-workers at the department as hostile having endured "multiple instances of homophobic behavior."
In documenting his complaint, Lemire said the homophobic attitudes started from the interview process. During one interview regarding a background check, Lemire openly acknowledged his sexuality to which the interviewing officers responded saying "we don't have many of your kind here."
Lemire started his field training with other officers on September 9, 2014, following graduation from the police academy. Over the course of this training period, the lawsuit describes several instances where Lemire allegedly endured homophobic behavior from fellow officers.
In one case, the lawsuit implies two officers did not seriously respond to a service call of an alleged sexual assault.
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According to the filing, "In 2014, Plaintiff and officers ... responded to a disturbance between a gay couple and a third male. The individual reported being drugged and sexually assaulted by the other two. Officers did not take the report seriously and insinuated to Plaintiff that the individual wanted the abuse, and joked about the size of the dildo used during the assault, asking 'how did you get something that big up there?' and referring to bowel movements."
In another incident, the lawsuit claims Lemire's supervising sergeant began a rant about the TV show Modern Family while in a break room at the police station. In that series, two of the main characters are a married Gay couple.
The sergeant supposedly said "'I can't believe they are allowed to air this shit on TV I just can't support a show that displays such despicable and unhealthy lifestyles like this is a normal family. It is immoral and disgusting, and it's worse that we all watch it as if that's OK.' Other supervisors who witnessed [the] Sgt. rant joined in, laughing and joking ..."
Other behaviors displaying to Lemire were cat calls in the changing room, questions thought to be in inappropriate regarding his personal life, asking if the medication he was taking was for HIV, and insinuating he might make passes at other male officers.
The lawsuit asserts that Lemire complained about this treatment through several channels during his tenure, but they were in part unaddressed. The complaints were filed with then Assistant Chief Bryan Noblett, the Internal Affairs Lieutenant Arthur Olsen, City of Elk Grove Human Resources Director Jackie Langeberg, and then Police Chief Robert Lehner.
An issue that occurred simultaneously to the alleged harassment is that Lemire was denied required training. During his 18-month probationary period, Lemire claims he had positive performance reviews "with the only corrections expected of a probationary-level Police Officer."
At the time of his denial, the lawsuit says Lemire was blocked from training because he was probationary. Lemire claims that his training Sergeant said that was not a valid reason to deny training.
Regarding inquiries to Noblett and Lehner, the lawsuit says Noblett acknowledged the filing of the complaint was not reason enough to deny him training offered to other probationary officers.
While Lehner initially told Lemire he was denied training because of performance issues, in response to a 15-page email sent by Lemire detailing the harassment, Lehner reversed the decision. The training was then granted "because there were no performance issues in the Plaintiff's file" according to the lawsuit.
Additionally, on November 30, Lehner issued a memo to officers and that discrimination was prohibited by law and department policy. The filing says "This was the only action taken by Defendant to address the harassment endured because of the homophobic discrimination with EGPD."
Following Lehner's memo, Lemire was written up on four occasions. Concerned, Lemire consulted his training officer on February 23 and was told that the "Department's policy is to impose progressive discipline on employees. [Training Sergeant] told Plaintiff that no progressive discipline was ordered against the Plaintiff."
Nonetheless, on February 25, 2016, Lemire was released from his probation, less than two weeks from his end of probation on March 7, 2016.
Along with his discrimination claim, Lemire is suing based on retaliation for complaining about discrimination; failure to prevent discrimination, retaliation and discrimination; defamation; violation of Labor Code Section 1050; and violation of Labor Code Sections 1102.5(b) and 1102.5 (c).
Attorneys representing Lemire or Lawrence Bohm of Bohm Law Group, and Robert Boucher of Boucher Law. Plaintiff's attorney declined to comment, and the Elk Grove City Attorney Jonathan Hobbs and Elk Grove Police Chief Bryan Noblett did not respond to email inquiries.