A Kentucky police officer has filed a lawsuit against the city after he says he was discriminated against after coming out as gay.
Officer John Burgraff has served as the Louisville Metro Police Department’s LGBTQ Liason Officer for four years without any reported issues. But conflict began in December of 2017, when he spoke to a Youth Police Advisory Committee, comprised of 14 to 18-year-olds. During his talk, he mentioned his position as liaison, which prompted his commanding officer, Lieutenant Phil Russell, to order a reprimand.
According to the lawsuit, Russell “claimed his remarks were not appropriate for a youth event, and that Officer Burgraff was looking at a young male inappropriately.”
Russell instructed another officer, Sergeant Corey Robinson, to discipline Russell. In turn, Robinson consulted with colleagues, who advised him not to discipline Burgraff. But Robinson did inform Burgraff of the complaint about him.
Burgraff took time off of work, using built-up vacation time, to avoid conflict with his commanding officer. Upon returning, he brought up concerns about Russell with another supervisor, but was told that Russell’s complaint “was not that bad.”
In response, Burgraff filed a complaint with the department. According to the lawsuit, Russell made comments indicating that another officer, Michael Sullivan, would “make sure [the investigation] went away.”
In May of 2018, the investigation concluded, finding that there was insufficient evidence to prove any wrongdoing on Russell’s part. Bergraff says he wasn’t informed of the investigation’s outcome until August 2019 and his request for a copy of the investigation was denied.
In the interim, disciplinary charges were filed against Bergraff, though he says he wasn’t informed of them until a reporter called him seeking comment.
He was also denied a promotion, with a supervisor telling him that he couldn’t be promoted due to “a lawsuit hanging over his head.” No lawsuit had been filed at the time.
Jessie Halladay, head of the public information unit, allegedly told Bergraff “we don’t want to look like we just gave [the job] to you.
Burgraff’s lawsuit claims discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as retaliation, and a violation of the Whistleblower Act.
In a similar case, a jury determined last month that the St. Louis police denied a promotion to an officer because of his sexuality, with one supervisor telling him, “the command staff has a problem with your sexuality… you should tone down your gayness.”