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Trial begins for woman alleging harassment at Western Maryland Police Academy

Tiffany Mosby-Grant, of Frederick, is suing the city of Hagerstown

May 31, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

The trial in federal court of a woman who claims she was a victim of gender-based harassment while training to become a Hagerstown police officer began in Baltimore Tuesday.

Tiffany Mosby-Grant, of Frederick, is suing the city of Hagerstown, alleging that she was subject to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment while enrolled in the Western Maryland Police Academy in 2006.

The jury trial before U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg is scheduled for four days, according to an official with the judge's office.

Mosby-Grant testified during the first day of the trial, the court official said.

In her lawsuit, Mosby-Grant said that she was the lone black female among 16 recruits. During her time at the academy, she claims recruits sang a song demeaning to women; excluded her from class activities; used racial and sexual slurs; subjected her to ridicule; and discussed sexual exploits and pornography, according to a joint pretrial order filed with the U.S. District Court in May.

"The harassment and hostility at the Academy had a negative impact" on Mosby-Grant's performance, causing her to fail her firearms qualification, the pretrial order said.

Mosby-Grant made academy Director Lt. Margaret Kline aware of some incidents, "yet the Academy failed to take effective and/or prompt remedial action," the pretrial order said.

However, the statement of facts from the city in the pretrial order said "a hostile work environment did not exist," and Mosby-Grant "failed to take advantage of the options made available to her to address the conduct in question."

The city's statement of facts denied a racial intention existed at the academy or that recruits engaged in much of the behavior alleged in her lawsuit. Mosby-Grant failed to notify instructors of many of the alleged incidents, it said.

Mosby-Grant filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in August 2006, but the EEOC ruled in 2007 that it could not conclude there were any violations. The EEOC did notify her she had the right to sue the city, which runs the academy, according to a December 2010 opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

She filed the lawsuit with the U.S, District Court in July 2007, alleging that a sex- and race-based hostile work environment existed, court records said.

The city filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, or to get a summary judgment in its favor. The court granted a summary judgment in October 2009, a court of appeals ruling said.

However, the appeals court found the Mosby-Grant "presented enough evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that she was exposed to a hostile work environment because of her sex."

"(But) Mosby-Grant lacks sufficient evidence to proceed on her race claim," the appeals court ruling said.

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