You are on page 1of 15

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 1 of 12 PageID.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT


WESTERN DISTRICT MICHIGAN
SOUTHERN DIVISION

TRESHA K. NEFF
Plaintiff

Case # 16-cv-

v.

HON.

CITY OF EAST
LANSING
Defendants

COMPLAINT FOR:
VIOLATIONS OF TITLE
VII, THE CIVIL RIGHTS
ACT, 42 USC 2000e and
MICHIGANS ELLIOTTLARSEN CIVIL RIGHTS
ACT MCL 37.2202
A JURY IS DEMANDED

Joni M. Fixel
FIXEL AND NYEHOLT, PLLC
4084 Okemos Rd., Ste B
Okemos, MI 48864
(517) 332-3390
jfixel@fixellawoffices.com

COMPLAINT AND JURY DEMAND


NOW COMES, Plaintiff, TRESHA K. NEFF, by and through her attorney,
Joni M. Fixel of Fixel and Nyeholt, PLLC, and for her complaint, states as follows:
JURISDICTION AND PARTIES
1.

This suit is brought and jurisdiction lies pursuant to Title VII of the

Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 USC 2000e. This is also an action
for violations of the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), MCL
37.2202.
1

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 2 of 12 PageID.2

2.

This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 USC 1331.

3.

Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant City of East

Lansing, through its East Lansing Police Department (Defendant City),


prohibited Plaintiff from training, promotions, better schedules and other
benefits that her male co-workers were allowed.
4.

Defendant City is a Michigan municipality with its principal place

of business in East Lansing, Michigan.


5.

Defendant City is a person within the meaning of Title VII of the

Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 USC 2000e.


6.

Plaintiff, Tresha K. Neff (Plaintiff) is a resident of Laingsburg in

Shiawassee County, Michigan and is a citizen of the United States with no


present intention of moving from her place of residence.
7.

Plaintiff is an employee within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil

Rights Act of 1964, 42 USC 2000e.


8.

All the discriminatory employment practices alleged in this

complaint occurred within the State of Michigan and in the County of Ingham
and damages exceed $75,000.00. Therefore, jurisdiction is proper in this
Court.
9.

At all times relevant hereto, Defendant City was Plaintiffs

employer. Defendant City had control over Plaintiffs work assignments,


hours, manner and methods of work, and supervised Plaintiffs day-to-day
activities. Plaintiff was never an independent contractor for Defendant City
under state or federal law.
10.

This action arises under Title Vii of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as
2

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 3 of 12 PageID.3

amended. It also arises under Michigans Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, MCL
37.2202.
11.

Plaintiff received her Right to Sue letter from the U.S. Equal

Employment Opportunity Commission and has filed this Complaint in a timely


manner. (See Exhibit A)

FACTUAL BACKGROUND
12.

Plaintiff was hired by Defendant City as a Police Officer on or about

June 20, 1994.


13.

After years of dedicated service, education, training and instruction,

the Plaintiff waited until it was appropriate to apply for a promotion.


14.

The Plaintiff waited until those officers that had seniority had all had

their opportunities to be promoted.


15.

The Plaintiff had (and has) no disciplinary in her records while

working for East Lansing Police Department.


16.

Once she had the seniority and training she applied for promotions.

17.

Each time the Plaintiff applied for promotions, she was denied and

a male co-worker would be promoted.


18.

Each time the Plaintiff was denied promotions, she would ask why

she wasnt promoted and was told repeatedly that she needed to be more well
rounded.
19.

Often the male coworker that had been promoted had considerable

less training, seniority and/or experience than Plaintiff.


20.

Plaintiff was advised that she should get a BA degree to help her
3

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 4 of 12 PageID.4

with future promotions.


21.

Later Plaintiff was told that working toward the degree was not the

same as having completed the degree as an excuse for not promoting her.
22.

Defendants continued to promote the Male co-workers despite that

these men had not having completed their college degrees.


23.

In 2008, Plaintiff was voted Woman of the Year by the Greater

Lansing Woman magazine. In the interviews that followed, she supported the
Defendants East Lansing Police Department to maintain a good reputation
despite the repeated discrimination that she had experienced.
24.

As an officer, the Plaintiff successfully completed the following

training programs:

25.

Field Training Officer;


Use of Force Instructor;
Hostage Negotiator;
MFF Instructor/Civil Orders Unit Instructor;
Motor Officer;
Detective Bureau;
Sex Offender Coordinator;
Hiring of Cadets;
Recruiting Officers;
Attended the first Organizational Leadership Course.

On or about December 7, 2011, Plaintiff was finally promoted after

applying approximately 8 separate times and 17 years on the force.


26.

Plaintiff was promoted to a Sergeant position.

27.

On that same date, a male co-worker, Steve Gonzalez, was

promoted to a Sergeant position as well.


28.

Plaintiff has 3.5 years more in seniority than Sgt. Gonzalez.

29.

Despite having less training and seniority, Plaintiff was told that Sgt.
4

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 5 of 12 PageID.5

Gonzalez would be senior to her.


30.

Plaintiff completed her one year probationary period as Sergeant

and her managers recommended that she come off of the probation on
December 7, 2012.
31.

In 2013-2014, as a Sergeant she was in charge of the Cadet

program.
32.

During that time, Plaintiff hired 16 new cadets, facilitated their

training, scheduling and the discipline of those cadets.


33.

Plaintiff coordinated the East Lansing Police Departments

involvement in the Toys for Tots campaign.


34.

As a Sergeant she was the supervisor of the Motor Unit and was

responsible for the training and special events within that unit
35.

Plaintiff instructed at the Mid-Michigan Police Academy through

Lansing Community College, where she taught alcohol enforcement and Civil
Disorder/Small Squad tactics.
36.

Plaintiff has participated in years of night problems which are

scenario based calls for recruits to build skills with actors to ready the recruits
for real calls after graduation.
37.

Despite her wide-ranging experience when Plaintiff attempted to

apply for promotions to Lieutenant in 2013 and 2014, she was passed over
again.
38.

On or about January 7, 2013, Chief Leibler posted a Lieutenant

opening which would be open to all non-probationary Sergeants.


39.

Plaintiff applied for the positon on or about January 10, 2013 and
5

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 6 of 12 PageID.6

was interviewed on January 22, 2013.


40.

On January 25, 2013, Chief Leibler announced that she had

promoted Sergeant Gonzalez to the position.


41.

On or about September 19, 2014, Chief Leibler posted another

Lieutenant opening. All non-probationary Sergeants were eligible to apply.


42.

Letters applying for the position were due on September 30, 2014.

Plaintiff submitted her letter dated September 24, 2014 to Captain Murphy.
43.

Captain Murphy took the letter from Plaintiff in his hand and then

motioned like he was going to throw it in the trash and said is this where this
goes?
44.

On October 9, 2014 Chief Leibler announced that a male Sergeant,

Scot Sexton, was promoted. Sexton had only been in the Sergeant position
for 18 months and at the time of promotion he had not completed one
supervisor school.
45.

Scot Sexton had less experience as a Sergeant, had only

scheduled a supervisor school and had 5 years less seniority than the
Plaintiff (who had a total of 23 years of experience with 3 years of experience
prior to East Lansing Police Department)
46.

In 2014, Plaintiff requested permission from Defendants Human

Resources Department to have the Defendant reimburse her for classes for
her Masters Degree as was allowed by their Command Officers Contract.
47.

Defendants Human Resource Department contacted her later and

told her that the money was already gone as of December 2014. Human
Resources stated that they had checked with Chief Leibler and that the Chief
6

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 7 of 12 PageID.7

stated that additional amounts would not be approved for coursework for
graduate programs.
48.

Historically the money for this reimbursement of $5,000 is first

come/first serve and is not based on the degree or program.


49.

Chief Leibler approved over $5,000 for the male command officer

education reimbursement. With $7,240 reimbursed from 7/1/12-6/30/13 and


$17,122 from 7/1/13-6/30/14.
50.

Yet from July 1,2014-June 30, 2015 only $3,440 was reimbursed to

male command officers. But when Plaintiff asked for the same benefit, she
was denied.
51.

Defendants paid approximately $7,754 for Lieutenant Murphy to

obtain his bachelors degree. However, Murphy didnt obtain his BA until
December 2015 after he had been the Acting Chief for approximately 6-8
months.
52.

Plaintiff requested to go to the MSU Staff and Command school in

2013 but was denied.


53.

Captain Murphy stated that he thought that it would be better for

Plaintiff to go after she had been a supervisor for 2-3 years due to the stress
that it puts on new supervisors.
54.

However, in the past Defendants have sent male supervisors who

had only been a supervisor for 6 months.


55.

Plaintiff put in another request to attend (only one session is offered

each year) in 2014. This time she was denied because Defendants were
sending Sergeant Chad Connelly, because he didnt have any supervisory
7

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 8 of 12 PageID.8

schools completed.
56.

Plaintiff had requested to go to the supervisor schools to allow her

to be successful in her new position. She had taken the initiative to improve
herself and now it was being used against her.
57.

Despite several male counterparts being allowed this training,

Plaintiff was denied the same by her management.


Count I
Violation of Title VII the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 as Amended Disparate Treatment
58.
59.

Plaintiff incorporates by reference paragraphs 1 through 57.

At all times as a female, Plaintiff was and is a member of a

protected class.
60.

Through the repeated denials of promotions, training and

educational opportunities from the Defendants, Plaintiff was subject to multiple


adverse job actions.
61.

Defendants repeatedly treated similarly situated male officers more

favorably by promoting, training and reimbursing these same male officers for
education while denying Plaintiff the same opportunities.
62.

Plaintiff was and is qualified for all of these opportunities and often

was more qualified than the similarly situated male officers who were promoted or
allowed training opportunities.
63.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants wrongful acts and

omissions, Plaintiff has lost wages and benefits, loss of retirement benefits,
humiliation and embarrassment, and loss of professional reputation.

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 9 of 12 PageID.9

WHEREFORE Plaintiff, Tresha K. Neff, respectfully requests that this Court enter

a judgment in favor of the Plaintiff against the Defendants as follows:


1.

an order enjoining Defendant from further acts of discrimination;

2.

an order of this Court awarding Plaintiff compensatory damages in an


amount determined at trial in this matter;

3.

an order of this court awarding Plaintiff non-economic damages in an


amount to be determined at the trial in this matter;

4.

an award to Plaintiff of attorneys fees, costs of litigation and interest

5.

an order of this Court granting Plaintiff further relief that it deems just and
equitable.
Count II
Violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 USC 2000e Disparate Impact

Plaintiff incorporates by reference paragraphs 1 through 63.


64.

Defendants have had a Police Department since 1921.

65.

The first woman promoted was in 1977.

66.

Since that first promotion, only 4 other women have been promoted.

67.

In 95 years, only 5 women have been promoted to Command Staff.

68.

The Defendants have a promotional process and practice that denies


women from the ability to be promoted to Command Staff.

69.

The Plaintiff and other women who have applied for promotions were
as or more qualified than the similarly situated male co-workers who
were promoted.

70.

The Defendants do not have a business necessity to deny their women


officers the promotions to Command Staff.
9

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 10 of 12 PageID.10

71.

The Defendants could have promoted qualified women for promotions


to fill the positions of the Command Staff within its Police Department.

72.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants discrimination on the


basis of gender, Defendants failure to make appropriate promotions,
has caused or continues to cause Plaintiff to suffer substantial damages
for pecuniary losses, mental anguish, and other non-pecuniary losses.
Count III
Violation of Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights
Act MCL 37.2301 et seq

Plaintiff re-alleges and reaffirms paragraphs 1-72 as if restated herein.

73.

Defendant City is an employer as defined in Michigans Elliott

Larsen Civil Rights Act (the Act), MCL 37.2301, et seq.

74. Gender was a determining factor in Defendants decision to deny Plaintiff


promotions, refuse training and refuse educational reimbursement.

75. Other similarly situated male officers were given promotions, training opportunities
and were reimbursed for education.

76. Defendants violated the Act and deprived Plaintiff of her civil rights by, among other
things discriminating against Plaintiff through administering promotions that were
discriminatory due to gender, training opportunities that were discriminatory due to
gender and educational reimbursements based on gender.

77. Plaintiff has been discriminated by Defendants' agents and employees throughout
the course of her employment.

78. The actions of Defendants and their agents, representatives, and employees were
intentional and made with reckless indifference to Plaintiffs rights and sensibilities.

79. Defendants knowingly and willfully discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of her
gender in violation of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

10

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 11 of 12 PageID.11

80. As a direct and proximate result of Defendants' unlawful actions against Plaintiff as
described, Plaintiff has suffered injuries and damages, including, but not limited to, loss
of earnings and earning capacity; loss of career opportunities and loss of reputation
and esteem in the community.

WHEREFORE Plaintiff, Tresha K. Neff, respectfully requests that this Court


enter a judgment in favor of the Plaintiff against the Defendants as follows:

1. Legal relief
a. compensatory damages in whatever amount Plaintiff is found to be
entitled
b. exemplary damages in whatever amount over $75,000 Plaintiff is
found to be entitled
c. an award of interest, costs, and reasonable attorney fees
d. Liquidated damages in whatever amount she is found to be entitled.
e. An award of interests, costs, and reasonable attorney fees and
expert witness fees.
2. Equitable relief
a. an award of interest, costs, and reasonable attorney fees
b. an order enjoining Defendant from further acts of discrimination or
retaliation
c. whatever other relief appears appropriate at the time of final
judgment
d. whatever other relief may appear appropriate when this courts final
order is entered.

11

Case 1:16-cv-00066 ECF No. 1 filed 01/25/16 Page 12 of 12 PageID.12

FIXEL and NYEHOLT, PLLC

Dated: January 25, 2016

/s/ Joni M. Fixel ____________


Joni M. Fixel (P56712)
4084 Okemos Road, Ste B
Okemos, MI 48864
(517) 332-3390
jfixel@fixellawoffices.com

12

Case 1:16-cv-00066

ECF No. 1-1 filed 01/25/16

EXHIBIT A

Page

1 of 2

PagelD.13

Case 1:16-cv-00066

ECF No. 1-1 filed 01/25/16

Page
S.

Civil

101/

2 of 2

PagelD.14

Department of justice
Rights Division

NOTICE OF RIGHT TO SUE WITHIN 90 DAYS

CERTIFIED MAIL

950

7014 0510 0000 2154 7090

Karen

Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W


Ferguson, EMP, P1113, Room
Washington, DC 20530

January 21,

4239

2016

Ms. Tresha K. Neff


do Joni Fixel, Esquire
Fixel Law Offices
4084 Okemos Road

Suite B

Okemos, MI 48864
Re: EEOC

Charge Against City of East Lansing

No. 471201500722
Dear Ms. Neff:

Because you filed the above charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and
than 180 days have elapsed since the date the Commission assumed jurisdiction over the charge,
and no suit based thereon has been filed by this Department, and because you through your attorney
have specifically requested this Notice, you are hereby notified that you have the right to institute a
civil action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, et seq,
against the above-named respondent.
more

90

If you choose to commence a civil action, such suit must be filed in the
days of your receipt of this Notice.
The

investigative file pertaining to your case is

appropriate Court within

located in the EEOC Detroit District

Office,

Detroit, MI.
This Notice should not be taken to mean that the
whether or not your case is meritorious.

Department of Justice has made a judgment as

Sincerely,
Vanita

Gupta

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General


'vil Rights Division
by.
Karen L. Ferguson
Supervisory Civil Rights Analyst
Employment Litigation Section
cc:

Detroit District Office, EEOC

City

of East

Lansing

to

AO 440

(Rev. 01/09)

Sunenb afiltettipotlea(ReEtgl"
NO

1-2 filed 01/25/16

Page

1 of 1

PagelD.15

SUMMONS IN A CIVIL ACTION


UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No.
Hon.

TRESHA K. NEFF

TO: City of East Lansing


ADDRESS: do Marie Wicks, City Clerk
410 Abott Road, Room 100

CITY OF EAST LANSING

A lawsuit has been filed

East

MI 48823

PLAINTIFF OR PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY NAME AND ADDRESS

against you.

YOU ARE HEREBY SUMMONED and required to serve


upon plaintiff, an answer to the attached conplaint or a imtion
12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure within
under
21
days after service of this summons on you (not
counting the day you received it). If y ou fail to respond,
judgment by default will be entered against you for the relief
demanded in the complaint. You must also file your answer
or motion with the Court.

IL

The Court has offices in the

Lansing,

Joni M. Fixel
Fixel and Nyeholt, PLLC
4084 Okemos Road, Ste B
Okemos, MI 48864

CLERK. OF COURT

following locations:

399 Federal Building, 110 Michigan St., NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
P.O. Box 698, 314 Federal Building, Marquette, MI 49855
107 Federal Building, 410 W. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo, MI 49007
113 Federal Building, 315 W. Allegan, Lansing, MI 48933

By: Deputy Clerk

Date

PROOF OF SERVICE
This

summons

for

City of East
Lansing
and title,

(name of individual

deny)

was

received by me

on

(date)

DI personally served the summons on the individual at


(place where served)

on

D I left the summons at the individual's residence or usual place of abode with, a person
of suitable age and discretion who resides

there,

on, and mailed

copy to the individual's last known address.

DI served the summons on, who is designated by law to accept service


of process

on

behalf of

on

(name of organization)

(date)

f T returned the summons unexecuted because


Other opec6)

My fees

for travel and

are

I declare under the

for services, for

total of

penalty of perjury that this information is true.

Date:
Server's signature

Additional information regarding

attempted service,

etc.:
Server's printed name and title

Server's address