Racial discrimination in law enforcement surprises…no one
WHITLEY, INDIANA – After being terminated by the Whitley County Sheriff’s department, a former Sheriff’s deputy brought a charge of racial discrimination against the department. A Chicago Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling which granted the Sheriff’s department’s motion for summary judgment, denying the sheriff’s deputy’s claims of racial discrimination.

Terrance McKinney, the first Black Sheriff’s deputy ever hired by this department, brought a suit for racial discrimination stemming from the Whitley County firing him back in May of 2014. According to the department, McKinney was fired for submitting false work hours while attending the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy; violating the standard operating procedure that requires filing complete monthly reports; and violating the standard operating procedure for fueling county vehicles. In a follow up letter, the department added two more reason for the firing McKinney: damaging a county vehicle and failure to complete a transport and follow verbal instructions.

Immediately following his termination, McKinney filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the Federal Agency charged with handling cases of employment discrimination. The EEOC issued McKinney a “Notice of Dismissal and Notice of Rights.” A Notice of Dismissal is a letter issued by the EEOC that means the agency determined there was no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, but Mckinney still had the right to file a lawsuit in Federal Court. Mckinney did just that, filing a complaint against the Sheriff’s Department in U.S. District Court of Northern District of Indiana.
In his complaint, Mckinney states that during his job interview in 2013 the Sheriff’s department discussed race with him, but he did not expect to face the severe ethnic discrimination that he experienced at the Department.

Mckinney stated that a number of incidents at the department made him feel uncomfortable, specifically noting that one officer used the ‘N-word’ in front of him. Also, in a separate incident, while Mckinney was getting coffee with a fellow officer, the white deputy stated that he wanted his “coffee black like his partner.” Mckinney also noted that many officers refused to speak with him and the department as a whole failed to properly train him. . The Sheriff’s department maintains that they hadn’t done anything wrong, and vigorously fought against all claims of racial discrimination.

In response to his complaint, the Sheriff’s Department moved for summary judgment, arguing Mckinney could not establish his claims of racial discrimination. The District Court ruled in favor of the department, relying on an affidavit provided by the Sheriff’s Department that simply claimed McKinney failed to meet the legitimate employment expectations of the department. The Circuit Court disagreed.

Mckinney appealed the District Court’s ruling to the 7th Circuit Court of appeals. The Court of appeals ruled in McKinney’s favor, stating that the Sheriff’s department was “dishonest” in their findings. In their motion for summary judgment, the Department doubled down on their stance that McKinney failed to follow various department polices. Circuit Judge David Hamilton stated that “there was no valid ground for the district court to refuse to consider McKinney’s evidence.” In the District, Mckinney presented hundreds of pages of testimony, gas receipts, scheduling records and other documents, which the district court failed to review. The trial goes to jury this Tuesday.

Racial discrimination claims are difficult to prove across the country. The New York City Human Rights Law and the New York State Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination based on race in any institution. Our attorneys have years of experience bringing claims of racial discrimination on behalf of our clients. Call us at 800-807-2209 for a free consultation to discuss your possible claim. Our attorneys are available to review your claims and prepare a solid case to recover the damages and justice you deserved.

About Derek Smith

Attorney Derek T. Smith is an experienced sexual harassment & discrimination law litigator who has particular experience in the areas of workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, civil rights litigation, employment law and civil litigation.

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