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Court rejects ex-police academy student's harassment claim against City of Hagerstown

Frederick woman claimed she had been subjected to harassment

June 06, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

BALTIMORE — A former police academy student who sued the City of Hagerstown over allegations of gender-based harassment has lost her case in federal court.

A jury delivered a verdict Friday in favor of the City of Hagerstown and against plaintiff Tiffany Mosby-Grant, according to a judgment filed Monday in U.S. District Court for Maryland in Baltimore.

The verdict concluded a four-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg.

Mosby-Grant, of Frederick, Md., alleged in the civil suit that she was subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment while enrolled in the Western Maryland Police Academy in 2006.

She sought damages of $350,000 from the city, saying the hostile environment caused severe psychological distress and led to her failure to pass a firearm proficiency test, resulting in her dismissal from the academy.

She said in the suit that she was the only woman and the only black person in a class of 15 trainees, and that other trainees sang a song demeaning to women, exculded her from class activities and subjected her to a nearly hourlong “vicious, discriminatory and personal attack” during a meeting supervised by a superior officer.

Responding to the verdict, Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said Monday that he was not surprised the jury rejected Mosby-Grant’s accusations.

“She was treated unbelievably well in the academy,” Smith said.

Though Mosby-Grant was self-sponsored and had never been a member of the Hagerstown Police Department, an academy staff member paid her tuition, Smith said.

“I think the jury agreed with us that there was no basis for any claim whatsoever in the first place,” he said.

A woman at the office of Mosby-Grant’s attorney, Brian Maul, said Maul would not comment on the case.

According to a joint pretrial order filed with the U.S. District Court in May, Mosby-Grant made academy officials aware of some incidents, “yet the Academy failed to take effective and/or prompt remedial action.”

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 that 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 that 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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