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Is gender discrimination present in law enforcement agencies? These cases prove it.

Is gender discrimination present in law enforcement agencies? These cases prove it.

Content warning: Sexual assault, sexual misconduct at work

“I want for myself, what I want for other women. Absolute equality!” Agnes Macphail

New York City – On August 11, 2020, former New York police department (NYPD) chief Lori Pollock filed a discrimination lawsuit against the city, and police commissioner Dermot Shea. Pollock claimed the department “created a glass ceiling to prevent women from advancing to senior roles.” 

Her complaint accused Dermot Shea of creating a “barrier to advancement for women to senior management levels” within the department. 

Pollock has sought monetary damages and claimed to have lost benefits, pension. She also said she has suffered from mental anguish, extreme stress, humiliation and damage to her reputation.

Deputy Commissioner Public Information (DCPI) detective Annette Shelton’s response to the complaint seemingly contradicts Pollock’s rationale in filing the lawsuit. He stated the “contributions of women, both in leadership roles and in their representation in the uniformed and civilian ranks, across the Police Department, cannot be overestimated.” 

Shelton’s response has been critically received by the public, and especially women in law enforcement. What follows is the details of Lori Pollock’s complaint, as well accounts of similar experiences from other women in law enforcement and the workplace at large.

Lori Pollock’s complaint detailed how Shea ignored the opinions of female employees who have been with the department since 1987, now newly appointed female managers, at a transition meeting in November 2019. It is alleged that at the time Pollock, Chief of Bureau of Crime Control Strategies and the first woman in the position, clearly expressed interest in the Chief of Detectives position. Shea had previously vacated the role to become Commissioner. According to the complaint, the Chief of Detectives position, now held by Rodney Harrison, was “a natural transition for men who had been in [Pollock’s] position but Pollock was never given the opportunity.”

On Dec. 9, 2019, Lori Pollock told Chauncey Parker, executive assistant district attorney for Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr.,”first I get dumped to this position and then you tell me you are my supervisor and don’t you think that is a kick in my teeth?” Pollock’s complaint alleged that she, along with other NYPD female members, was never considered for Chauncey Parker’s role or other high ranking leadership roles, despite being more qualified.

As of last week, Lori Pollock retired from the NYPD. Her lawsuit asserts Pollock’s retirement as a move forced upon her, the alternative route being to “endure no opportunity for advancement and the loss of her staff, authority and management responsibilities.” 

Agnes Chan, the first Asian American armed police officer, once said, “I don’t just want an Asian officer to be here if they don’t want to be here. They have to want this job.” It took time for Agnes Chan to gain the respect of residents in Spanish Harlem, who thought that she “made for a strange sight.”

The Current Affairs Times interviewed some female corporate professionals who have faced gender discrimination in the workplace. One such professional claims that “besides being asked to stick to junior positions despite being qualified for higher management roles and less pay, women are always doubted when it comes to work product deliveries.” 

“I have come across instances where managerial roles go to men while analyst roles where most of the [ground work] is to be done, is handed over to women. This is more so with women of color,” the professional continued.

Another professional shared her experience on verbal sexual harassment at work. She said, “I walked into a meeting and was made to feel extremely uncomfortable by a colleague who made sexual references to the projects I was presenting, [telling me] he found me sexy. I felt very embarrassed and humiliated…no one in the meeting called him out, including the women in the meeting. I felt powerless and helpless as I knew no action would be taken against him given his seniority in the organization.”

Women often also endure unsolicited verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature that impacts their workplace performance, and sometimes involves non-consensual touching. Many people have made serious allegations regarding non-consensual touching in the #MeToo movement; as one example, celebrity chef Mario Batali was accused of groping and forcibly kissing a woman at a restaurant back in 2017.

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Lori Pollock’s lawsuit encouraged many women to speak up. Following her lawsuit, Pinterest’s COO Francoise Bougher also filed a gender discrimination lawsuit. It asserts Bougher “was marginalized and excluded from important decisions for refusing to take a back seat to her male peers.” She went on to say she was terminated in April for “objecting to demeaning and sexist treatment.”

Bougher wrote in a statement on Medium, “Pinterest’s female executives, even at the highest levels, are marginalized, excluded, and silenced. According to Pinterest, I was fired not for the results I achieved, but for not being ‘collaborative.’ I believe that I was fired for speaking out about the rampant discrimination, hostile work environment, and misogyny that permeates Pinterest.”

Very recently, WalMart has agreed to pay damages in the amount of $20,000,000 to women at their distribution centres, who complained they did not get job filling orders at the distribution centers due to their gender.

‘Glass Ceiling’ is a reality in many employment sectors today. Gender discrimination is something that can occur anywhere, but has significant impact in the workplace. In the United States, federal law prohibits employment discrimination on account of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. From small businesses to law enforcement agencies, gender and racial discrimination exists at deep-rooted levels, complicating the implementation of this federal law. 

Despite gender discrimination’s existence in the workplace, women remain optimistic about the value they bring to the workplace as human beings. As Drew Gilpin Faust said, “I’m not the Woman President of Harvard, I’m the President of Harvard.”

Image credit: Andrew Berton, Getty Images

Sources: 

The Current Affairs Times has obtained an original copy of the complaint through a confidential source that is not for viewership. Kindly contact us should you need a copy of the original complaint.

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Afia is a lawyer, journalist, an avid traveler, an avid reader, a foodie, and an amateur singer. She enjoys instrumental music with her glass of wine 🙂

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