Yesterday, a federal court in Massachusetts held that the retaliation case of a former Brockton, Massachusetts police officer may go to trial. The former officer, Ken Williams, alleges that the City of Brockton and officials from the Brockton police department violated his First Amendment rights when they retaliated against him for speaking out on a matter of public concern. The matter of public concern that Williams spoke out about was alleged racial discrimination against a person who another Brockton police officer arrested.
In November 2007, Brockton police officers arrested an African American businessman named Jose Semedo. During the arrest, one of the police officers, Lon Elliott, allegedly uttered racial epithets toward Semedo and mocked him using racially offensive gestures. Semedo later spoke to Williams about what happened and Williams advised Semedo to file a complaint against Elliott with the Brockton Police Department. Semedo filed a complaint, as Williams advised, and an internal affairs investigation against Elliott ensued. After the conclusion of the investigation, Williams also testified at a disciplinary hearing against Elliott which ultimately resulted in Elliott’s termination.
Williams claims that he experienced retaliation because he advised Semedo to file his racial discrimination complaint and because Williams testified against Elliott at his disciplinary hearing. The retaliatory acts include the defendants’ denial of his request for work-related medical leave which forced him to retire. The federal court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on these claims and held that they should go to trial.
Even though it is the right thing to do, it takes courage for people like Ken Williams to speak out against their co-workers when their co-workers engage in misconduct, even misconduct as egregious as the racist behavior in this case. That is why anti-retaliation and whistleblower protection laws are so important. The Maine Employee Rights Group is here to help you if you find yourself in a situation similar to Mr. Williams where you’ve voiced concerns about illegal activity at work and you experience retaliation as a result.