Lawsuit: Gay Ohio officer says he endured harassment by fellow LEOs
The suit says the LEO endured discrimination because of his sexual orientation and due to injuries he suffered in 2017
Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland
CLEVELAND — A gay Cleveland police officer hurt in 2017 says in a lawsuit that fellow officers harassed him with disparaging statements, a post on a bulletin board and through several drawings of penises with his name on them.
The suit filed in federal court Tuesday says officer Kevin Jones endured discrimination both because of his sexual orientation and due to injuries he suffered in 2017. The suit names one officer whom Jones accuses of sustained harassment, but the Cleveland police union president said that officer was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Police brass were aware of the harassment and discrimination but largely did nothing about it, the suit alleges.
Jones filed two complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
A spokeswoman for Cleveland police said Jones is on extended sick leave and that he has disciplinary cases that have yet to be completed. The lawsuit says the city didn’t properly inform him of his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act. He said he is able to work without accommodations.
Jones seeks an unspecified amount in damages and an order to return him back to the job. He also wants his personnel file expunged of negative documentation.
City spokesman Dan William declined comment.
The city hired Jones in 2015.
He was hurt when he helped people out of a house that was on fire in 2017, according to the suit. He was considered disabled as a result and the city placed him on restricted duty.
On June 1, 2018, Jones participated in the LGBTQ Pride Parade in Cleveland. He posted a picture of himself on Facebook during the event “with a positive message regarding the parade,” according to the suit.
Jones returned to work three days later and saw the picture printed out and posted on a bulletin board. The suit says someone also wrote the following underneath the picture:
“On restricted for over a year, can’t answer radio, but can walk around downtown for a parade...??”
Whoever posted the picture did so to out Jones to the city, according to the lawsuit.
“The Disclosure Incident harassed Jones because Jones did not conform to the City or the individual’s perception of the male stereotype and how a male should act,” according to the suit.
Jones also saw drawings of a penis with his name on the drawing, one of which was in the men’s bathroom.
Jones made a complaint about his harassment to a lieutenant on Aug. 18. WJW Fox 8 ran a segment soon thereafter about Jones’ complaint, and officers harassed Jones regarding the news story.
As a result, he filed another written complaint and said “I truly don’t feel safe anymore,” the suit says.
Jones’s lawsuit says he suffered another injury in 2018 and received a handicap parking placard. Jones was working in the department’s public records section Jan. 10 when city officials told him that he could not park in a handicap spot without clearance from the department’s medical unit, the suit states.
Jones sent an email the next day that said he believed he was enduring retaliation because of his complaints, according to the suit. Three days later, Chief Calvin Williams took Jones off active duty and said Jones was physically unfit to perform his job duties because he was issued a handicap placard, the suit alleges.
He claims in the suit that a fellow officer called him “stub toe” and harassed him in a group chat among officers and in front of superiors, the suit says. Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Jeff Follmer said human resources investigated claims Jones made against the officer and cleared him.
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