GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (CBS Detroit) — A federal judge has rejected claims by two White Michigan State Police officials who said they were victims of illegal retaliation after objecting to how MSP was trying to diversify its workforce.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids on Monday dismissed the lawsuits filed in May 2020 by Capt. Michael Caldwell and Inspector Robert Hahn.READ MORE: Consumer Alert: How To Avoid Fake N95, KN95 Masks
“These dismissals are important not just for MSP’s integrity as an employer, but for recognizing there is nothing inherently illegal about a diverse and inclusive work environment,” said Attorney General Dana Nessel. “These suits were an attempt to undermine MSP’s efforts to ensure the force properly represents the communities it serves. That doesn’t amount to discrimination – it’s responsible community policing. I appreciate that Judge Jonker’s findings make clear the allegations laid out by these plaintiffs simply did not exist. I’m also proud of the AAGs who worked diligently to achieve this outcome for our client agency.”
Caldwell was demoted and Hahn was fired in March 2020 after state police determined they had improperly interfered in the handling of a transfer request.
Both claimed that was only a pretext and they were singled out because they spoke out against the agency’s diversity initiatives. Both said they objected after state police Director Joe Gasper in 2019 told command officers that the department was “way too white and way too male.”
Caldwell and Hahn said racial and gender preferences in public employment violate the state and U.S. Constitutions, especially a 2006 state referendum. The lawsuits named Gasper and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as defendants.
“Plaintiffs plainly disagree as a policy matter with the priorities of the Michigan State Police. And at bottom, this is all they have shown. The main characters in this case are all white males,” Jonker said in his 35-page opinion. “There is scant evidence that Director Gasper had any active involvement in Plaintiffs’ disciplinary process. Moreover, Plaintiffs cannot point to a comparator to make out a prima facie case of reverse race and gender discrimination. Nor can they demonstrate the reasons underlying their respective disciplines were pretext for unlawful race and gender discrimination or that their discipline was retaliation for their complaints about the administration’s diversity policies”READ MORE: Flint Public Schools Staying Virtual Indefinitely Due To Large Amount Of Positive COVID-19 Cases
Their attorney Jim Fett told Detroit Free Press he plans to appeal the ruling.
“This affirms what we have said from the beginning – the claims are false,” Gasper said in a statement. “There never was, or will be, employment, promotion, retention, or any other personnel practice decisions made motivated by bias or based on discrimination. We are pleased with this conclusion and remain committed to supporting a work environment with equal opportunity for all of our members.”
Additionally, the judge also dismissed a lawsuit filed by Michael McCormick, who claimed he was passed over for the post commander position because of “discriminatory and retaliatory animus due to his race, gender, and the complaints he had made in March 2018 after being passed over for a previous promotion in 2015.”
However, Jonker wrote in his opinion that McCormick, who is White, withdrew his application before it could be considered and his “arguments for relief from this requirement of a prima facie case are unavailing.”
“Moreover, McCormick admits he had an angry attitude and that this attitude affected his professional relationships, which is exactly the reasons superiors gave for concern about promoting him,” Jonker said. “This is fatal to any claim of pretext. Accordingly, and for the reasons set out more fully below, the Court grants the defense motion for summary judgment and dismisses this case.”MORE NEWS: State Fears Confusion After Michigan Restaurant Wins In Dining Ban Case
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