Justice Department Secures Settlement in Race Discrimination and Retaliation Suit Against SEPTA
The Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a settlement with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), a regional public transportation authority based in Philadelphia. The settlement resolves the department’s complaint alleging that three officers of the SEPTA Police Department were subjected to a hostile work environment by their supervisor and experienced retaliation when they opposed the harassment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).
Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion, and prohibits retaliation against employees for opposing employment practices that are discriminatory under Title VII.
“All transit police officers deserve to go to work each day without fear of harassment and retaliation from their supervisors and colleagues,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This settlement sends a clear message that the department stands ready to protect employees who are subject to racial harassment and a hostile work environment, particularly in law enforcement agencies dedicated to serving the public.”
The department’s complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleges that SEPTA subjected the officers, who belonged to a special investigative unit, to racial and religious harassment and retaliated against them because they opposed the harassment. According to the complaint, the officers’ supervisor repeatedly harassed them with racial slurs and derogatory comments about Black people and Muslims, threatened the officers and physically assaulted them.
The complaint further alleges that the Police Chief retaliated against the officers for opposing the harassment. The officers’ supervisor and the Police Chief are no longer employed by SEPTA. Under the terms of the consent decree, if approved by the court, SEPTA will implement anti-discrimination and retaliation policies and provide trainings for its employees. SEPTA will also pay the officers a total of $496,000 in compensatory damages.
The United States’ complaint is based on charges of discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Philadelphia District Office, which investigated the charges and found reasonable cause that SEPTA violated Title VII. After unsuccessful conciliation efforts, the EEOC referred the charges to the Justice Department.
The full and fair enforcement of Title VII is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division.