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US judge in Michigan tosses gay corrections officers’ suit

January 9, 2022 GMT

DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge in Michigan has tossed a lawsuit brought by two gay corrections officers, ruling that some of their discrimination claims weren’t sufficiently proven and that statutes of limitation barred others.

Michelle Wood alleged in the 2020 suit that she was regularly singled out for taunts and homophobic slurs, then was retaliated against after she complained about them, the Detroit Free Press reported Friday.

Her partner, Loretta Smith, alleged she was demoted to a midnight shift and faced a hostile work environment after Wood complained, the lawsuit alleged.

The Detroit-based attorney for the plaintiffs, Jonathan Marko, expressed disappointment in U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts’ ruling and said an appeal was a possibility, according to the newspaper.

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“My clients are devastated,” Marko was quoted as saying. “They feel revictimized today.”

Wood retired in 2019 after more than 25 years in the job, saying in the lawsuit that she was under so much pressure in a hostile environment that her departure felt like she had been fired.

In her ruling, the judge also said Wood was unable to prove her claims that the department used rule violations as a mere pretext for denying her promotions and that the denials were actually based on illegal discrimination.

Earlier, department spokesman Chris Gautz had said it “takes allegations of discrimination in the workplace, no matter what type — race, sex, orientation, identity — seriously and investigates such claims as soon as they become known to the department.”