ATLANTA -- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has affirmed a lower court’s summary judgment in favor of the city of Fort Pierce, Florida, in an employment discrimination suit where sexual harassment was also alleged.  

Nicole Patsalides first filed suit in September 2014 alleging both offenses along with retaliation, much of it at the hands of a male coworker after she had completed a three-month police training program and was in her first two weeks on the job for the Fort Pierce Police Department.   

Patsalides alleged a male patrol officer she worked with “touched her repeatedly in ways that she considered to be inappropriate.” During the two-week period in question, Patsalides also charged her tormentor “touched her arm, shoulder, or hands on approximately 10 different occasions” and in one instance “rubbed his hand on her thigh from up by her service belt all the way down to her knee.”

Patsalides further alleged the officer would arrive as backup on police calls where she was dispatched without having been assigned or called on to do so.

At one point, Patsalides said she reported her complaints about the officer to a superior, ultimately leading to his termination, with the city attributing his firing to both his treatment of Patsalides and that he had a history of similar allegations being lodged against him involving other officers.  

Patsalides alleged she was further victimized after stepping forward, with other officers referring to her as a “snitch” for turning in a colleague. She was formally terminated just days after lodging a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Patsalides sought an appeal on the basis of her dispute with four conclusions reached by the lower court, among them her contention that her treatment created a hostile work environment, altering the terms and conditions of her employment, and that her termination violated Title VII's participation clause.

In rendering its verdict, the appeals court asserted “even if we assume that the record, when taken in a light most favorable to Patsalides, sufficiently supports a finding that the male officer's inappropriate conduct was based on sex and that it created a hostile work environment either because it was severe or pervasive, on this record, we hold that there was no basis on which to find the city liable for the officer's actions.”

The high court also noted that the department quickly moved to terminate the rogue officer after investigating and finding some level of credence in Patsalides’ charges.

“This pattern of disciplinary action, whereby each new infraction was met with prompt and effective remedial measures and the imposition of increasingly severe punishment that ultimately culminated in the officer's termination, is entirely consistent with the city's obligations under Title VII,” the court noted in its ruling.   

The appeal was heard by Circuit Judges Stanley Marcus, R. Lanier Anderson and Frank M. Hall.

According to the TC Palm, Patsalides was represented by the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Amlong & Amlong P.A.

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