(CN) – A female patrol officer had “arguably superior qualifications” to two male colleagues who won out on a promotion, the 6th Circuit ruled, reviving the officer’s discrimination suit against her employer.
The Cincinnati-based appeals court found that Karyn Risch, a 17-year veteran of Royal Oak Police Department in Royal Oak, Mich., could pursue her claim against her employer.
On a 2-1 vote, the appellate panel overturned the district court’s dismissal of Risch’s case for lack of evidence.
In 2005 Risch was twice passed over for a promotion by male applicants who had lower scores on the department’s promotion system, which weighed a written exam, performance reviews and seniority.
Though Risch scored lower on the written exam than her male colleagues, she outperformed both in quality of work and had significantly more seniority than either one, the ruling states.
But Risch said a hostile work environment kept her from getting the promotion, including a police chief who fellow officers admitted will “never have a female on the command staff.”
Risch said she remembers hearing, “None of you [female officers] will ever go anywhere.”
The appellate court ruled that the combination of a discriminatory work atmosphere, the lack of women in high positions and Risch’s qualifications raised a genuine controversy, allowing the claim to survive summary judgment.
The court reversed and remanded the case.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Griffin said the district court was right to toss out Risch’s case because the department gave a “legitimate, non-sex-based reason for denying her the promotion.” The police chief said he selected the male officers over Risch because they demonstrated more initiative and had greater leadership qualities.
Griffin also pointed out that the police chief promoted women during his tenure before Risch sued.
The 60-officer department employs 13 or 14 women.