Law enforcement, like any career, has its own unique challenges. Police officers are faced with frequent stress, odd work hours, and constant physical demands and threats to physical safety. For these reasons, relationships and communication can be a bit different than in white collar office jobs. Leaders may mistake bad language or sexual and racial epithets with strength or masculinity. Personnel departments have at times been guilty of retaliating against officers who speak out, all under the mistaken guise of protecting the force or maintaining a strong culture.
With these things in mind, it is important to recognize the distinct landscape of law enforcement when pursuing a claim for discrimination in the workforce. At Five Points Law Group, our attorneys have decades of experience helping workers fight for the compensation, benefits and fair treatment they deserve. Here are a few of the unique challenges that face law enforcement when bringing a claim for discrimination.
It can be Harder to Get Witnesses to Speak Up
Consider one recent case out of Amherst, Massachusetts, in which one of the senior-most officers in the department filed a claim for age discrimination. That case alleges that senior leadership used vulgarities and discriminated against him because of age and disability. While this is an ongoing case and the facts are still just alleged, it does highlight that in law enforcement, people may be reluctant to “break ranks” to speak out against a department. Whether due to feelings of disloyalty or concerns about retaliation, many law enforcement officers find it difficult to come forward.
The Job is Different
In most workplaces, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will regard unequal treatment as discriminatory, but law enforcement sometimes gets a bit of a pass. This is because of just how different the job really is. For instance, if an office worker were denied promotions due to a mental health condition like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or bipolar disorder, then that worker could reasonably make a claim for discrimination based on disability.
However, when a law enforcement officer is diagnosed with a severe mental health condition that could reasonably have a direct impact on his or her ability to make split-second decisions of life and death, then it can be more difficult to prove a discriminatory reason for the adverse actions.
Specific Law Enforcement Rules
In most cases, it is unlawful for an employer to force someone to retire due to age, but with law enforcement in Alabama, there are mandatory retirement ages in place to protect the public and the officers. Therefore, it can be more difficult to prove certain types of actions are discriminatory.
Get Advice Early
At Five Points Law Group, our attorneys can offer you practical tips and suggestions for building your case and protecting your rights. If your employer overreaches and violates the law, you will be in a better position to take action. Just keep in mind that most EEOC actions for discrimination will require you to file your action in as little as six months, so do not delay getting help.