Tresa Baldas with Detroit Free Press reported that Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputy Philip Kozlowski has filed a salacious employment lawsuit after he says he complained multiple times about the inappropriate advances of a female boss and those complaints weren’t taken seriously. After a year of alleged taunting he filed a formal complaint in October of 2015. Kozlowski claims the female sergeant retaliated by claiming he sexually harassed her. Kozlowski was demoted to desk duties and took a $10,000 a year pay decrease.
Deputy Philip Kozlowski worked for the Sheriff’s Department for over two decades when he says the sexual harassment began from his female sergeant in November of 2014. Kozlowski says he complained multiple times to superiors and those complaints were not taken seriously. “Take one for the team,” said one under-sheriff. The abuse continued he said until the following October. Over the year, the female sergeant texted and called his personal cellphone number for non-work-related issues, pulled him off assignments sot that she could spend time with him, locked him in an office with her to be alone with him and turned the lights out, drove by his home and positioned herself close to him at sit-downs. Her behavior, completely out-of-line, according to Kozlowski.
The suit alleges that the female sergeant also made very inappropriate comments to the deputy during the course of a year. The comments toward the deputy included, “What would you do if I were to unbutton your pants and just start sucking your (expletive)?” “You need to talk to me the way you talk to your wife.” “Did you see 50 Shades of Grey? I bet you are just like him in bed.” “I’d love to sit in your Jacuzzi topless.” “Your wife is a ho from the ghetto.”
After nearly a year of his complaints going unmet, Deputy Philip Kozlowski filed a written complaint his female sergeant, claiming sexual harassment. When she learned of the filing, she told a corporal who had taken the complaint, “Kozlowski doesn’t know who he’s (expletive) with. I’m going to (expletive) him, and (expletive) him good.” She then, Kozlowski says, retaliated by claiming he sexually assaulted her. An investigation followed and although he was never charged, he was briefly suspended and eventually demoted to a desk job answering phones. The job change cost him $10,000 a year.
“Before he filed a formal complaint, he went to his supervisors, but they laughed it off,” said Kozlowski’s attorney Scott Batey. “That’s one of the problems you have in these reverse cases. A lot of men might think, ‘Well, where’s the harassment?’ It’s been devastating to his career. The very fact that he had to file a lawsuit is devastating to his career,” Batey said. “What a lot of employers don’t get is that they can have an employee who is harassing someone, and all they have to do is take prompt remedial actions and stop it.”
But that didn’t happen according to Kozlowski, so he filed a complaint with the EEOC, who issued him a right-to-sue letter on Sept. 1. 2016. Along with his attorney, a lawsuit was then filed in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, on November 28th, 2016. The suit alleges sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. The suit claims that the department mishandled the case from the beginning, ignored Kozlowski’s complaints, mocked him and ultimately retaliated against him when he filed a formal complaint. Never once, they claim, did the department do anything to stop the harassment.
“He was left with no alternative other than to file a lawsuit,” Batey said, adding victims typically don’t want to file suits. “They just want the harassment to stop and to keep working.” Kozlowski claims the work environment and the career he took years to build was destroyed by the female sergeant ,who has not been named because of her allegations she made of sexual assault. Both officers still work for the department and the court case is on-going.
There is a clear stigma against men reporting sexual harassment in the workplace, according to New Orleans employment law expert Scott Schneider. “There are clearly cultural barriers for men to come forward with those sorts of allegations.” Especially in an environment like a police department, where males traditionally dominate the workforce. Coupled with a clear disproportion between settlement awards, most men are believed to not file complaints at all. “That’s one of the problems you have in these reverse cases. A lot of men might think, ‘Well, where’s the harassment?’,” says Batey. “We’re supposed to be men. We’re supposed to be tough. The public’s perception is, ‘You should be so lucky to be harassed by a woman.'”
Recent cases highlight the disparity between settlements for men and women. One can be seen in a 2014 case of a male deputy who claimed his female boss sexually harassed him. The suit alleged that the Galveston County Sheriff’s Deputy was forced to quit because he felt humiliated and embarrassed after the on-going harassment. A Texas jury awarded the deputy $567,000.
In 2011, a Michigan man was awarded $192,500 after a settlement in his favor. His suit claimed that while we worked as a lab technician at LensCrafters, a female co-worker sexually harassed him and his complaints were ignored because he was a man.
Compare those to a female UPS manager who said UPS retaliated against her after she accused a driver of sexual harassment. She was awarded $80.7 million. In 2012, a physician’s assistant was also awarded $168 million for her claims of constantly being asked for sex by doctors at the hospital she worked at, and her employer did nothing to stop the harassment.
There should be no disparity between being able to come forward as a man or a woman when you believe you are being sexually harassed. The EEOC levels the playing field, despite social stigmas and the law is only concerned with whether the harassment took place, not the gender of the accuser or accused. Ernest Haffner, an EEOC attorney in Washington, D.C. says, “People are surprised that men would complain about this, and that could be a mistake. Employers should take harassment seriously, regardless of whether it’s a man or a woman. They all need to be treated the same.”