Details of the harassment, discrimination suit that led Police Comm. Ross to resign

PHILADELPHIA — The three people involved in the Philadelphia Police Department leadership change all spoke publicly for the first time, Wednesday morning.

Also, details of a federal lawsuit brought by two women who work for the police department — an officer and a corporal — against the city, Former Comm. Richard Ross, Acting Comm. Christine Coulter and nine other members of the department, are coming to light.

Ross and Coulter are mentioned extensively: Ross for retaliating after an affair and Coulter for directing discipline as his deputy.

The other defendants are Chief Inspector Daniel MacDonald, Inspector Michael McCarrick, Lt. Timothy McHugh, Sgt. Brent Conway, Sgt. Eric Williford, Sgt. Kevin O’Brien, Sgt. Tamika Allen, Sgt. Herbert Gibbons and Officer Curtis Younger.

The plaintiffs — Corporal Audra McCowan, who is a black woman, and Officer Jennifer Allen, who is a black Hispanic woman — are both in their late 30s. They’ve each been with the department for more than 15 years, they each have husbands who work for the department and they each have children from 12 to 17, and Allen has a one-year-old.

The suit of 104 pages claims “the city acted or failed to act through its agents, servants and employees,” and the plaintiffs “suffered continuous and ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination by both coworkers and supervisors.”

Among the numerous offenses quoted are being

“unwittingly grabbed and groped on two occasions by her immediate supervisor,” and “multiple counts of sexual harassment that occurred while (a plaintiff and a defendant) were working together at the police academy, including inappropriate sexual comments such as, ‘you’re giving me action in my pants,’ and ‘bend over like that again,’ as well as unwanted physical touching, including trying to kiss her and slapping her butt.”

They both filed sexual harassment complaints to the chief inspector of the intelligence bureau on Jan. 30 of this year, and their suit asks for

“injunctive and declaratory relief, actual damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, liquidated damages, reinstatement, pre- and post-judgment interest, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs of suit as remedies for defendants’ violations of their rights.”

“In early- to mid-February 2019, Ms. McCowan texted and called Commissioner Ross on his personal cell phone to inform him that she had been experiencing sexual harassment and a hostile work environment in the DVIC (Delaware Valley Intelligence Center in South Philadelphia), and that she had been punished for reporting same.

RESIGNED: Former Philadelphia Police Comm. Richard Ross, from Philadelphia Police Dept.

“Commissioner Ross asked, ‘Who is it against?’ Ms. McCowan responded, ‘P/O Curtis Younger.’ Commissioner Ross declined to act on her report, and instead suggested, ‘So why don’t you just order his dumb ass to go sit down and get out of your face ‘Officer.’” Ms. McCowan responded, ‘Think about how you would feel if it was your daughter. Would it matter if it was someone that works for her or not? If she told the person to repeatedly stop, that doesn’t matter?’ Commissioner Ross stated, ‘I know you don’t like for me to be straight with you, largely because ‘two rams always seem to butt heads’ . . . but I want to offer you some sage advice as a friend.” Ms. McCowan asked Commissioner Ross to share his advice and he responded, ‘No, not the time based on your frame of mind.’

“During these conversations, Commissioner Ross also stated he was going to ‘school’ Ms. McCowan on sexual harassment and indicated that he continues to be upset with her and was getting in the way of redressing her complaints in retribution for her breaking off their two-year affair, which lasted from 2009 to 2011.”

That was before Ross was commissioner.

Tuesday, Ross suddenly resigned from his job. Mayor Jim Kenney accepted Comm. Ross’ decision and announced it.

Kenney spoke out for the first time at noon Wednesday. He said he’d been away but spoke to Ross on Monday night and again on Tuesday. He learned more about the lawsuit and reluctantly decided to accept Ross’ resignation.

Mayor Jim Kenney, file from Wikipedia

Mayor Kenney put out a statement saying in part,

“I do not believe the police department has taken the necessary actions to address the underlying cultural issues that too often negatively impact women — especially women of color. I will be enlisting the help of an independent firm to investigate the recent allegations and to make recommendations to overcome some of the discrimination and harassment within the department.”

He also mentioned a conversation with Ross after last week’s standoff, with Ross taking part in negotiations after six of his officers were shot.

“I asked him. I said, ‘Are you okay?’ He said, ‘No, I’m tired. I’m really tired. That’s what I think all culminated in, and I think he made the right decision for the department and for the city,” Kenney said.

The mayor went on to praise Ross’ work over the past three-and-a-half years on big events like the Democratic National Convention, NFL Draft, Eagles Super Bowl parade, and his transparency like reporting on pedestrian stops.

He denied the allegations in the lawsuit and said he was not forced out.

The deputy commissioner of organizational services, Coulter, becomes the city’s first female commissioner, if only acting. The 30-year Philadelphia Police Department veteran is also named in the lawsuit. She wouldn’t say whether she’ll throw her hat into the ring for the permanent position.

“What I would like to change, and we all would, is the level of violence in the city and we will work tirelessly to do that,” is what Acting Comm. Coulter said.

Separately, Officer Allen was interviewed by Sgt. Conway of Internal Affairs to talk “about the sexual harassment complaint she filed against Officer Younger.”

The suit claims Conway

“failed to conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of plaintiffs’ internal discrimination complaints, and failed to take appropriate disciplinary and corrective measures where necessary to resolve the problems and prevent harassment from happening again.”

It said, “Sergeant Conway started the interview by telling Ms. Allen that ‘he knows Audra [McCowan],” from when they used to work together. Sergeant Conway also said, “I’m married to an African American woman” and, “I have an autistic son.”

“Sergeant Conway made references to other sexual harassment and assault allegations made by other female cops … and expressed his opinion that, ‘In those cases, the females were lying.’ He asked Ms. Allen why she ‘waited so long to speak up.’

“Sergeant Conway typed his interpretation of Ms. Allen’s answers to his questions, which he asked her to review and correct but rushed her to sign the document. He also instructed her to write that she wanted to be separated from Officer Younger. She said she didn’t want to be moved from her position and he responded, ‘They can’t do that because that would be a lawsuit. And if they do it, I’ll tell them they can’t.’

“On February 8, 2019, Sergeant Conway summoned Ms. McCowan to Internal Affairs. He said, ‘The Philadelphia Police Department has the highest payouts in lawsuits out of all the city agencies, so these interview questions are worded to assist the city in defending against a lawsuit in case you and Officer Allen decide to sue. Basically the questions are worded to determine that you didn’t do what you were supposed to do.’ He further explained his opinion that, ‘You can’t be sexually harassed because you are a supervisor.’ He also said, ‘You failed to timely report your complaints against Officer Younger because you didn’t submit them on the Philadelphia Police Department Intranet.’ He also said, ‘You may be held liable for failing to properly report this because the city is tired of paying out settlement money.’ He also said, ‘Chief Flacco (unspecified person) suggested that telling your husband about Officer Younger should be considered reporting to a supervisor.’ Sergeant Conway also said, ‘My wife is Black.’

“After their interviews at Internal Affairs, the men in plaintiffs’ unit started acting differently toward them.”

APPOINTED: Acting Police Comm. Christine Coulter, from Philadelphia Police Dept.

The suit claims,

“On March 6, 2019, Ms. McCowan wrote a second EEO memo, titled: ‘REQUEST TO BE DETAILED OUT,’ and” stated: “I respectfully request to be detailed out of the building, to a unit in my current chain of command under Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter; pending the adjudication of my complaint.”

Then, after returning to work on March 11 after being diagnosed with physical symptoms “being caused by her stress at work,” she “reported to EAP (employee assistance program) to obtain mental health counseling. At EAP, Ms. McCowan met with Corporal Beard, who expressed ‘utter shock’ at Ms. McCowan’s story and repeatedly said she was ‘dumfounded’ and ‘astounded’ by defendants’ actions.”

The next day, the suit claims Sgt. Conway of Internal Affairs “made the following statements:

  • ‘I talked to the guy who wrote the sexual harassment policy for the city and he said that a supervisor can’t be sexually harassed by a subordinate.’
  • ‘I don’t understand why Jen (Allen) didn’t have a problem breast pumping in the DVIC for months, then all of a sudden she did, it’s kind of suspicious that she had an issue during her first night of night work.’
  • ‘I told Chief (Inspector Daniel) MacDonald that he made a bad decision by giving Jen a day work position when she came back from having the baby.’
  • ‘Giving Jen the job was setting a bad precedent.’
  • ‘How did you get promoted?’
  • ‘Do you know of anyone else who went to a special unit as a result of being promoted? I never heard of such a thing.’
  • ‘Chief Flacco has caused the city to lose lawsuits because he refuses to be EEO trained.’
  • ‘What special training do you have that qualified you to work in HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas)?’
  • ‘If there had not been a second party (Ms. Allen) on your complaint, the complaint would have been dismissed from the very beginning.’
  • ‘We have been exploring the possibility that you are making all this up just to get out of your current position.’
  • ‘Some officers (such as Officer Younger) could use favoritism to wield power over their supervisors,’ which he compared to “trying to discipline Chief Flacco’s aide. Even though she is a lower rank, she holds power because of her proximity to the chief.’”

The next week, at the end of her shift, a supervisor read a text message to McCowan: “Effective tomorrow you will be detailed to Police Radio!”

“Police Radio is an extremely busy and hectic place to work. There is a perception within the PPD that assignment to Police Radio is a punishment.

“Moreover, Ms. McCowan’s daywork/weekends-off schedule, which she held for the past 11 years, would change immediately to alternating day and night shifts with alternating days off.

“Ms. McCowan’s desk was moved to the tape room at Police Radio, an unheated room among the building’s computer servers. The temperature in the room drops below 50 degrees, requiring a winter coat to stay warm.”

She arrived as scheduled the next day and spoke with a different lieutenant who “said that he ‘didn’t have any information’ regarding her new assignment, and that she would “have to wait until I talk with the captain at 8:00 am.’ He further stated that ‘each squad in the unit has all the supervisors they need, so whatever squad you go to, you will be an extra supervisor, and you won’t count on their manpower projection.’”

The lieutenant “also said that Ms. McCowan ‘can’t work on the dispatch floor without proper training by the state.’”

Ms. McCowan was told she’d “basically be a rotating administrative corporal handling any extra work that the captain or lieutenant or inspector have.” Also, she’d be “working rotating shifts in Squad 1, Platoon D.”

At 10:00am, she spoke to the captain who said he “still doesn’t have any assignments for her.” He also said an inspector “asked if he could have you in 5 Squad (steady day work) but was told ‘no’ by Deputy Coulter’s Office. He said he asked Deputy Coulter’s office if Ms. McCowan ‘could get Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) training so she could at least help out on the radio floor, and they said no.’

“Ms. McCowan asked if she could at least be placed on the overnight ‘last out’ shift (working steady hours from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am every night), which would ensure that either she or her husband, Keith, would be at home at night with their children before they went to bed. At 1:47 pm, (the lieutenant) called Ms. McCowan into his office. When she arrived, (another lieutenant) was present. (That lieutenant) told her: ‘They said you can’t work overnight either.’

“Ms. McCowan’s sudden shift change from steady day work to rotating day and night shifts was a violation of standard operating procedure. Normally, when someone is detailed to a different unit — they keep their shift. And if they must be moved to either a new unit or a new shift, they are given reasonable notice (30 days) — she was given less than 24 hours.

“Since being detailed to Police Radio, Ms. McCowan has not been given any work assignments — she has been forced to sit, without work, for 8 hours every day.”

Then, there were payroll issues and “Ms. McCowan went out of work on sick leave (twice) due to ongoing emotional distress from the work events described above.”

“On April 10, 2019, plaintiffs timely filed charges of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC).”

“On April 30, 2019, around 9:00 am, Ms. McCowan spoke with a civilian worker in Police Headquarters named Maria who works in Deputy Commissioner Coulter’s office. Maria said, ‘They talk openly about your situation in Deputy Coulter’s office. It’s so unprofessional,’” and the Fraternal Order of Police filed a grievance.

“On May 14, 2019, Ms. McCowan received call from John McGrody at FOP stating, ‘Deputy Coulter said that there was a meeting on Friday, May 10, 2019, with Commissioner Ross, 1st Deputy Patterson, and Deputy Coulter, and they all decided to disapprove your hardship memo” from the day before that requested “to be placed back on her previous daytime work schedule.”

“From May 21 through May 28, 2019, Ms. McCowan was again forced to take sick leave.

“On May 29, 2019, at approximately 1:00 pm, civilian Maria from Deputy Commissioner Coulter’s office said she saw Sergeant Jann from the Commissioner’s office go into Deputy Coulter’s office with a memo in her hand, mention Ms. McCowan’s name, and say, ‘Well that’s what happens when you have a reputation.’”

After a third Internal Affairs interview with Conway about her complaints, “Ms. McCowan reported to her nightwork shift and dispatchers were using the console at her seat.” She was told “to ‘sit out in the hallway.’ After 4 hours of sitting in the hallway without any work assignments, Ms. McCowan used 4 hours of sick time.’”

The next day, “June 8, 2019, Ms. McCowan was informed that she would be expected to sit in the hallway without work indefinitely.”

“On June 21, 2019, John McGrody from FOP called Ms. McCowan to tell her that FOP and PPD had a First Step Meeting on June 19, 2019 and that the PPD denied her request for shift change. Mr. McGrody said,

‘You worked in the building long enough to know how it works. Once you’re out of the clique they ostracize you. Between you and me, this is all coming from Commissioner Ross, who he said he was mad because he thinks you’re making all this up.’

“By now, Ms. McCowan had had spent over 800 hours (100 days since March 13, 2019) sitting around all day at Police Radio without having been given any work opportunities.”

Also “on June 21, 2019, DOJ (the U.S. Department of Justice) issued plaintiffs Notices of Right to Sue Within 90 Days.”

After that, “On June 26, 2019, Ms. McCowan notified (two women) in the police personnel office, stating she was exercising her rights under the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) to take time off from work to treat a qualifying medical condition for which she was under the care of a physician.

“On July 1, 2019, Ms. McCowan’s physicians submitted the executed forms and certifications necessary to take Ms. McCowan out of work on FMLA leave.

“On July 10, 2019, (a sergeant) texted Ms. McCowan, ‘No one seems to know anything about your FMLA status. Checked with personnel and they don’t have anything.’

“On July 11, 2019, (one of the women) at police personnel left a voicemail for Ms. McCowan stating she received her FMLA paperwork but that her FMLA paperwork would not be processed ‘unless she submitted a formal memo requesting FMLA leave.’

“Upon information and belief, to date, Ms. McCowan’s FMLA paperwork has not been processed.”

Continuing Coverage: Philadelphia Police Department

In the meantime, Allen’s responsibilities and shifts were changed a few times, and her doctor told her to take a few days of sick leave for health issues including blood pressure.

“On February 28, 2019, at 3:00 pm, Ms. Allen went to a follow-up appointment with her primary care doctor” who “was concerned about her rapid weight loss, anxiety, headaches, inability to sleep, and low milk supply and took her out of work for four weeks. Upon notifying defendants about her need to go out of work regarding her aforementioned medical issues, defendants failed to notify Ms. Allen of her FMLA rights and she was forced to use her remaining sick time.”

“On March 26, 2019, Ms. Allen had an appointment with city doctor’s office. This was a prerequisite to her returning to work the next day.

“At 8:04 am, Ms. Allen texted (defendant) Sergeant Allen stating that she was at the city doctor. Sergeant Allen did not respond. At the city doctor’s office, Ms. Allen was seen by a certified nurse practitioner named Dinon, who asked Ms. Allen about her anxiety and whether she was on anti-anxiety medication. Ms. Allen said, ‘No, because I’m breastfeeding.’

“The nurse practitioner then asked Ms. Allen, ‘is that something that was a problem at work?’ And Ms. Allen said ‘yes.’ The nurse practitioner was shocked by this and suggested Ms. Allen return to work on Restricted Duty status to address her anxiety and so she could successfully breast pump at work without interference. She told Ms. Allen to call and advise her primary care doctor.”

“Her doctor’s office agreed that it was in Ms. Allen’s best interest to return to work on Restricted Duty and they wrote a note stating same.”

“Ms. Allen took the Restricted Duty note to the PPD’s Safety Office, where she was given Restricted Duty Instructions and assigned a plainclothes daywork shift in the Criminal Intelligence Unit in the DVIC.”

“On March 27, 2019, at 8:05 am, Ms. Allen reported to the supervisors at the Criminal Intelligence Unit in the DVIC and presented them with her Restricted Duty Instructions.

“At 8:20 am, Ms. Allen was talking to a group of police officers when Sergeant Allen called her from across the room and ordered her to ‘meet me at my desk,’ and said, ‘“What are you doing?’ Ms. Allen explained that she was placed on Restricted Duty and assigned to the Criminal Intelligence Unit, and handed Sergeant Allen her Restricted Duty instructions. Sergeant Allen asked, ‘Will they be putting your time in (referring to her hours for payroll)?’ Ms. Allen’s Restricted Duty instructions clearly describe the procedure for posting her attendance, but Sergeant Allen said, ‘Well, tell them to put it in for you!’

“A few minutes later, Sergeant Allen called Ms. Allen back over to her desk and said:
Sergeant Allen: Who put you out restricted?
Ms. Allen: My doctor put me out restricted.
Sergeant Allen: Who did you speak to in the Safety Office, and what was said to you?
Ms. Allen: In reference to what?
Sergeant Allen: In reference to your assignment. I need to know who put you in Criminal Intelligence because I can’t take it at face value.”

“At 8:50 am, Sergeant Allen told Ms. Allen to follow her to the captain’s office, where they met with (a lieutenant) and Lieutenant McHugh. Sergeant Allen said, ‘You will report to me and you will still be working under me.’ Ms. Allen said, ‘OK. No problem.’ Sergeant Allen then said, ‘You are to sit at my desk and I will give you your work assignment.’ Ms. Allen said, ‘OK. No problem.’ Sergeant Allen then said, “You are to remove all of your things from your desk over in A&I (the Analysis and Investigations unit).’

“At around 3:20 pm, Sergeant Allen approached Ms. Allen while she was talking to (two officers). Sergeant Allen said, ‘Come here.’ Ms. Allen followed her to a conference room. (A) corporal also entered the room. Ms. Allen sat directly across from Sergeant Allen; (The) corporal was seated at the head of the table. Sergeant Allen handed Ms. Allen a piece of paper and said, ‘This is what occurred earlier.’ Ms. Allen read the paper — a counseling memo for insubordination instituting a progressive discipline plan.

“Ms. Allen said, in her usual respectful tone and manner, ‘That did not occur.’ Sergeant Allen stated she ‘wasn’t going back and forth,’ and told Ms. Allen that if she ‘wanted to say anything then write it down.’

“While Ms. Allen was writing, Sergeant Allen said, ‘What you’re writing — does that pertain to what happened today?’ Ms. Allen said ‘yes,’ and continued writing for a moment. Sergeant Allen interrupted again: ‘Well I have more things to address. I need a sick note from you.’ Ms. Allen started to say, ‘I provided the sick note to…’ but Sergeant Allen interrupted, ‘I’m not going back and forth with you.’

“Ms. Allen tried to clarify that she had already given her sick note to the Safety Office at 19th and Fairmount, but Sergeant Allen said in a hostile tone of voice, ‘Do they put your time in? I provided you with the directive to refer to when you were out sick.’ Ms. Allen asked for a copy of said directive, which she had not received. Sergeant Allen said, ‘No. Read it on your own time.’

“Sergeant Allen then said, ‘Effective tomorrow (March 28, 2019), you will be detailed to the Neighborhood Services Unit (NSU). Report there at 9:00 am.’

“Ms. Allen continued to write her statement on Sergeant Allen’s discipline memo and Sergeant Allen said, ‘I’m only giving you a few more minutes.’ Ms. Allen started to sign the back of the memo underneath her written explanation of the facts and Sergeant Allen interrupted again: “Don’t sign your name there, sign it on the front.’ Ms. Allen signed her name and noted the time, ‘Jennifer Allen, 3:43p.’ She flipped the paper over and signed on the front as well, and then handed the paper back to Sergeant Allen. Sergeant Allen read Ms. Allen’s statement of the facts and laughed out loud. Ms. Allen asked for a copy. Sergeant Allen said she ‘wasn’t coming back in here’ and told Ms. Allen to meet her at her desk if she wanted a copy.

“At 3:53 pm, (that) corporal, who witnessed the interaction, texted Ms. Allen in response to Sergeant Allen’s behavior: ‘What the HELL???!!!!!’

“At 3:54 pm, Ms. Allen asked (the) corporal if they could talk after she picked up her copies of Sergeant Allen’s disciplinary memo, and (the) corporal said ‘OK.’ At 3:55 pm (approximately 10 minutes after the meeting), Ms. Allen went to Sergeant Allen’s desk to retrieve copies of the memo:

Ms. Allen: Can I have my copy?
Sergeant Allen: Hold on, I’m doing something.
Ms. Allen: OK.

“Ms. Allen waited. Sergeant Allen finally said, ‘Here it is,’ and placed it on a cabinet, instead of in Ms. Allen’s hand like a professional. Ms. Allen looked at the copy and noticed that it was only the front side of the memo and did not include the back page with her continued explanation of the facts and signature:

Ms. Allen: Sergeant, this doesn’t have both sides.
Sergeant Allen: Oh, it doesn’t? (in a sarcastic tone of voice)
Ms. Allen: The other side is blank.
Sergeant Allen: You’re going to have to wait.
Ms. Allen: OK.

“Ms. Allen then waved at (the) corporal and gestured for her to come over. (The) corporal walked over and Ms. Allen said, ‘I’m waiting on another copy.’ (The) corporal said, ‘OK. See me after you get it.’ Ms. Allen said ‘OK.’ Ms. Allen continued to wait for Sergeant Allen to return with a copy of the second page of the memo.

“At 4:02 pm, she looked down at her watch and waited a few more minutes. Sergeant Allen stood up and walked to the copy machine. She returned and placed Ms. Allen’s copy on a cabinet right beside the copy machine (instead of handing it to her), and said, ‘There it is,’ and walked away.

“Ms. Allen met with (the) corporal who instructed Ms. Allen to ‘write down everything that happened,’ and advised Ms. Allen to ‘file complaints for the breast pumping incidents’ as well as the retaliatory discipline by Sergeant Allen. (The) corporal told Ms. Allen that she would ‘get a memo from (another officer)’ who was also a witness.”

The suit says Allen’s new supervisor gave her and another nursing officer a hard time with pumping.

“Employers are responsible for alerting employees about the employer’s worksite lactation support program, and for negotiating policies and practices that will help facilitate each employee’s infant feeding goals. Employers should know exactly how to support employees like Ms. Allen and (the other) officer, including educating all staff about the importance of respecting a coworker’s privacy while pumping and providing coverage during lactation breaks. Employers are expected to ensure that all employees will assist in providing a positive atmosphere of support for breastfeeding employees,” it readx.

That didn’t happen and eventually, “Ms. Allen stopped pumping at work.”

“On July 29, 2019, at approximately 4:00 pm, plaintiffs filed their Verified Complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, thus initiating this lawsuit.”

“On July 30, 2019, the morning after defendants became aware of this lawsuit, defendants again changed plaintiff Allen’s job assignment, schedule and hours of work in retaliation for participating in this case. At approximately 12:15 pm, Ms. Allen was notified by her supervisor, (a) lieutenant, that ‘effective immediately’ Ms. Allen was reassigned to the PPD’s ‘Police Tow Squad’ and her hours of work were being changed … to a completely different schedule rotating between daytime and nighttime shifts with rotating days off.

“(The) lieutenant instructed Ms. Allen to report to Tow Squad, which is in a different geographic location than NSU, ‘at 6:30 am tomorrow (July 31, 2019).’ He handed her a yellow sticky note with the details of her new assignment.

“(The) lieutenant told Ms. Allen that her reassignment ‘came from the Safety Office.’ Ms. Allen called the PPD’s Safety Office and spoke with … a civilian supervisor, who told Ms. Allen that the order to change her assignment and hours of work ‘came from the Deputy Commissioner’s office.’ It is unheard of for a Deputy Commissioner to call the Safety Office in reference to manpower. Upon learning of defendants’ most recent retaliatory adverse employment action against her, Ms. Allen was forced to take 4 hours of sick leave and went home for the day.”

During depositions a week ago on Aug. 14, “Plaintiff Allen was accompanied by her husband, Officer Edward Allen, who had taken a vacation day (which he had requested and received approval for several days in advance) to support his wife at her deposition.

“Edward Allen wore plain clothes (a black polo shirt and gray dress pants) and waited patiently in the lobby with Ms. McCowan while Ms. Allen was sitting for her deposition. Mr. Allen did not have his police radio because he was on vacation.

“At 11:05 am, Mr. Allen received a call on his cell phone from (an officer who’s an inspector’s aide), who asked, ‘Where are you?’ Mr. Allen responded, ‘I am on vacation.’ (The) officer asked, ‘Are you sure you’re on vacation?’ Mr. Allen said “Yes,” and (the) officer said, ‘OK. Have a good day.’

“At 11:12 am, Mr. Allen received another phone call from his immediate supervisor, (a) sergeant who was the person who approved Mr. Allen’s vacation day several days prior, asking ‘Where are you?’ Mr. Allen did not want to speak about this lawsuit, so he told (the) sergeant he was at a doctor’s appointment. (The) sergeant responded, ‘Are you sure you are at a doctor’s appointment and not at a deposition?’ Mr. Allen asked, ‘How do you know I’m at a deposition?’ (The) sergeant responded, ‘The captain of the 22nd District was called, the lieutenant from the 22nd District was called, and the inspector of Central Division was called. The inspector of Central Division contacted me and stated that the Office of Human Resources of Philadelphia contacted (a different) inspector. (That) inspector’s office stated that you are in full uniform with your police radio up loud causing a disturbance at your wife’s deposition, and that they had to tell you several times to turn your police radio down. They want to know why you are there and in full uniform.’

“Mr. Allen stated, ‘You approved my vacation. You know I’m on vacation. I am not in full uniform. I am in plain clothes. I do not have a police radio and I am not in the deposition. I am in the lobby with Corporal McCowan. I am not here testifying. I am not a witness. I am just here to support my wife.’ (The) sergeant responded, “OK. I was just calling to check on you to make sure none of that was going on because they contacted us.’ Mr. Allen thanked (the) sergeant for calling and they hung up the phone.

“On August 15, 2019, Mr. Allen spoke with (the) sergeant about the above incident. (The) sergeant said, ‘Everything I told you was relayed to me. The captain of the 22nd District also asked for an evaluation of your job performance.’

“(The) sergeant then read Mr. Allen an email from the captain of the 22nd District, which stated, ‘Is this the officer that was at the deposition today without permission to be there?’ (The) sergeant then told Mr. Allen, ‘I don’t know of a police directive that says you needed permission to support your wife at a deposition.’

“Plaintiffs anticipate defendants and their agents will continue retaliating against them and their husbands (who are also sworn members of the PPD) for participating in this lawsuit.”

“As a direct result of defendants’ unlawful discrimination and retaliation, plaintiffs have been forced to seek ongoing medical treatment including mental health therapy and antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication to treat their emotional distress. Prior to events complained of in this case, Plaintiffs had no history of inpatient mental health intervention, psychotropic treatment or any other history of outpatient counseling. Plaintiffs further claim aggravation, activation and/or exacerbation of any preexisting condition.”

Causes of Action:
Count I: Title VII Disparate Treatment
Count II: Title VII Hostile Work Environment
Count III: Title VII Retaliation
Count IV: Violations of FLSA Protections for Nursing Mothers
Count V: FLSA Retaliation
Count VI: FMLA Interference
Count VII: FMLA Retaliation
Count VIII: Section 1981 Disparate Treatment
Count IX: Section 1981 Hostile Work Environment
Count X: Section 1981 Retaliation
Count XI: Disparate Treatment in Violation of Equal Protection Clause
Count XII: Hostile Work Environment in Violation of Equal Protection Clause
Count XIII: Retaliation in Violation of Petition Clause
Count XIV: Pennsylvania Whistleblower Retaliation
Count XV: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”)
Count XVI: Assault And Battery
Count XVII: Declaratory Relief Allegations
Count XVIII: Injunctive Relief Allegations

The plaintiffs request a jury trial.

Nobody from the city would comment on the suit, other than to say a third party will look into it. The defendants are all being represented by two city lawyers.

A quick search of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania shows the Philadelphia Police Department — the fourth largest in the nation with more than 6500 sworn and 800 civilian members — and its officers get sued, or mentioned in lawsuits, pretty often.

Some recent verdicts in those suits include:


  1. “Ross has been a staunch defender of the department and its officers. He has also been one of the few adults in the room when Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner have, in my opinion, unfairly impugned the reputation of the police. … To conclude now, without further evidence, that he allowed an employee to be abused simply because he was a jealous, territorial man is hasty character assassination, something we see too often in this post-MeToo era.”
    — Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Christine Flowers on the resignation of former Philadelphia Police commissioner Richard Ross.

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