Officer sues Ohio city
for damages and apology
[Columbus, OH]


Tim Doulin, Dispatch Staff Reporter
December 23, 2000, Saturday
Copyright 2000 The Columbus Dispatch
The Columbus Dispatch
December 23, 2000, Saturday

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- A Columbus police officer who says she has been discriminated against has sued the city, seeking monetary damages and an apology.

Sgt. C.J. Everhart, a nine-year veteran of the Police Division, says in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus that she has been discriminated against based on gender, a disability and in retaliation for past discrimination complaints she has lodged against the division.

The lawsuit, which names the city as the defendant, seeks an unspecified amount in damages and lost wages and asks the court to block further retaliation and discrimination against Everhart.

It also asks the court to order the city, through police Chief James G. Jackson, to publicly apologize.

The suit was filed in 1998 but later dismissed, with both parties agreeing that it could be refiled by Dec. 20, 2000.

Everhart was one of the officers who filed a complaint against the division with the U.S. Justice Department, her attorney John Waddy said.

She agreed to dismiss her lawsuit until her complaint with the Justice Department was resolved, Waddy said.

"We thought it would be over by now,'' he said. "It hasn't played out as quickly as I hoped it would.'' So the suit was refiled on Monday.

Everhart, 37, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The city won't comment because it has not been served a copy of the refiled suit, said Ryan Lippe, a spokesman for the city attorney.

According to the lawsuit, when Everhart learned she had asthma, supervisors discriminated against her by refusing to allow her to wear a mask designed to help manage the condition.

Everhart was told the mask was not appropriate police clothing, the suit said. Waddy added that she was told the mask intimidates people. Because motorcycle and SWAT officers are permitted to wear the masks, it represents a double standard, he said.

"As we speak today, she is being ordered back on the street without protective gear, even though she still has this condition,'' he said. " Everyone gets accommodated but her, which amazes me.''

The suit also says the division resented Everhart because of a flap over a bulletproof vest and "set out on a program of retaliation'' against her.

In 1996, Everhart was denied a properly fitting vest, which officers are required to wear for protection, the suit says. She said she was pregnant, making it impossible to wear the vest she had.

Everhart said she was denied a bigger vest, though other officers have been issued new vests for changes in weight and other reasons.

She filed a sex-discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She dropped the charge when the Police Division later agreed to issue her a new vest, she said.

"This did not occur, however, until some nine months after the issue arose, '' the suit stated.

The suit also contends the division has "resented and objected'' to Everhart's membership in Police Officers for Equal Rights, a police officers' watchdog organization.

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