A federal judge has ruled that the city of Tulsa violated the Civil Rights Act when it retaliated against a black police officer who objected after being ordered to march in a Martin Luther King Day parade.
U.S. District Judge John Dowdell ruled in favor of Capt. Walter Busby Jr.’s retaliation claim on Thursday, calling the police department’s race-based actions “repugnant,” the Tulsa World reported.
The judge’s decision comes more than two years after her denied the city’s request to dismiss the lawsuit under the Civil Rights Act.
“Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer ‘to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,’?” Dowdell said in the 2015 ruling.
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Dowdell has ordered the city to remove Busby’s unfavorable performance evaluation, credit him with 453 hours of combined vacation and sick leave he took following his reassignment, and pay his attorney fees. He also ruled against Busby’s allegations of discrimination.
Busby’s attorney, Louis Bullock, said he thinks that portion of the ruling means Dowdell determined that the racial discrimination didn’t get to a level of being actionable.
In a statement Tulsa officials said they were pleased that Dowdell “found the city and its employees did not discriminate against Cpt. Busby on the basis of his race.”
The city had argued that it had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for ordering Busby to participate in the parade because it was a “legitimate community policing event.”
The city said participating in the event “reinforces TPD’s commitment to treating each citizen of Tulsa equally, regardless of cultural differences and background.”
Busby filed the lawsuit in 2011 against the city, Police Chief Chuck Jordan and two other superior officers. He alleged he was ordered to march in the 2010 parade by his then superior, Maj. Walter Evans. He said he objected to participating in the parade and asked for time off, but was denied.
Evans, who is also black, denied that the order was based on race. But in a memo to Busby regarding his decision, Evans said he was “embarrassed that few African American officers participate in department-sponsored ceremonies,” including the parade.
Dowdell ruled that Evans’s actions were in retaliation for Busby’s allegations of discrimination.