RICHMOND -- A former Richmond Police Department records clerk has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and police Chief Chris Magnus over what she claims was wrongful termination from her job of 23 years, carried out in part because it was alleged she harassed a lesbian volunteer.
Loudesia Flanagan, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, had her First and Fourth Amendment rights violated before her October 2013 termination. Afterward, according to the complaint, she was denied unemployment benefits by the police department, which alleged misconduct regarding her treatment of the volunteer.
According to the complaint, Flanagan suffered lost wages, reputation and professional injury, medical expenses, humiliation, embarrassment and anguish as a result of her termination. She is seeking general, specific and punitive damages and attorney's fees.
"We had an extremely strong basis for taking the action we did," Magnus said Thursday. "We have an interest in ensuring we maintain a respectful workplace and providing the public a quality service."
The suit claims the department attempted to "quash" Flanagan's religious beliefs, disciplining her for wearing a Christmas hat in the workplace during the holiday season, and illegally searched her locker for a daily prayer she kept there.
Formal workplace complaints lodged by Flanagan in December 2012 and February 2013 were not taken seriously, according to the complaint. Instead, the suit states, deputy police Chief Ed Medina told Flanagan she needed to "change" herself.
In response to the workplace complaint, the suit contends, police officials resurrected a 2012 complaint lodged by a volunteer alleging that Flanagan and others refused to grant her access to the department gym because of her sexual orientation. The department, according to the suit, "attempted to use this old 2012 complaint as a means to investigate plaintiff, with the ultimate goal of termination."
Magnus said Flanagan twice filed complaints -- one with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which in March found no violation of any statutes, and one with the police department in 2013 where a neutral arbitrator sided with the city.
Staff writer Robert Rogers contributed to this report. Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him at Twitter.com/garyscribe.