Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against the Puerto Rico Police Department for Race, Color and Religious Discrimination
The Department of Justice announced today the filing of a lawsuit against the Puerto Rico Police Department PRPD) alleging that the PRPD discriminated against Yolanda Carrasquillo on the basis of race, color and religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII). Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, alleges that the PRPD discriminated against Carrasquillo by subjecting her to daily verbal harassment about her race, color and religion over a period of approximately three years beginning in 2007 and ending in 2010. According to the complaint,. Carrasquillo, a sworn police officer, was subjected to a hostile work environment because of the discriminatory actions of a civilian co-worker who regularly used racial and other offensive slurs directed towards Carrasquillo, and other black or dark-skinned employees, that disparaged her race, color and Christian faith. The United States has alleged that the co-worker’s discriminatory conduct persisted on a daily basis and over a number of years, often in the presence of Carrasquillo’s other co-workers and numerous supervisory police officers at the PRPD.
Despite numerous timely complaints about the harassment by Carrasquillo to her supervisors and other PRPD officials, the PRPD failed to take any meaningful steps to stop the harassment or discipline the harasser. The complaint alleges that the PRPD failed to follow its anti-harassment policy which provides for zero tolerance for harassment and specifically charges supervisors with preventing and immediately correcting acts of discrimination of which they become aware through either a report made to them or personal observation.
Through this lawsuit, the United States is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the PRPD to develop and implement policies that would prevent its employees from being subjected to harassment based upon race, color or religion as well as monetary damages for Carrasquillo as compensation for the PRPD’s discriminatory actions.
Carrasquillo originally filed a charge of race, color and religious discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which investigated the matter, determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discrimination had occurred, and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.
“All workers deserve the freedom to go to work each day without fear of harassment because of their race, color or religion. Public employers should set an example for others by upholding the law and taking prompt and effective action to stop discriminatory harassment,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will vigorously pursue such violations of Title VII.”
The continued enforcement of Title VII is a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is available on its website at www.usdoj.gov/crt .