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Judge rejects former Delaware trooper’s discrimination lawsuit against state police

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A federal judge ruled Friday in favor of the Delaware State Police in a lawsuit filed by a former trooper who said she was subjected to years of discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation as she rose through the ranks.

Police sergeant Nicole Oldham, 49, said she endured harassment and discrimination from 2002 to 2018. She received a termination letter from former state police Col. Nathaniel McQueen Jr. in October 2018, months after being placed on medical leave and a week after filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

An attorney for Oldham, now known as Nicole Hantz, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

During her career, Oldham became the first female to be voted president of a police academy class, and the first to be assigned as an investigator in the fatal crash reconstruction unit, according to the lawsuit. A trooper-of-the year nominee in 2004, she later became the first woman to be named officer in charge of the governor’s executive protection unit, according to the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Richard Andrews said many of Oldham’s hostile work environment claims were barred by the passage of time because she failed to demonstrate a continuing pattern of similar conduct by the same individuals. Instead, many of the claims targeted different conduct by different troopers over a period of several years.

Other complaints of a hostile work environment failed to show discrimination and harassment that was “severe and pervasive,” Andrews added.

The judge also rejected Oldham’s discrimination claims based on her transfer from a “super troop” in Georgetown to a “less desirable” troop in Bridgeville in 2018, and her subsequent termination.

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Andrews said Oldham failed to demonstrate that her transfer, which police said was done to resolve “intrapersonal issues,” was an adverse employment action or retaliation for her sexual harassment complaints.

The judge also said McQueen was justified in relying on documents submitted by medical providers to determine that Oldham suffered from “permanent disability” that warranted her termination. The medical providers suggested it was unlikely that she would be able to return to full duty.

Oldham’s lawsuit described a police agency that she said turned a blind eye toward sexual harassment, misogyny, extramarital affairs and hostile working conditions, and retaliated when misconduct was called out.

Oldham’s allegations included sometimes lurid details of the abuse she said she suffered at the hands of fellow officers. Oldham alleged among other things that she was targeted with false rumors that she had sex with male subordinates, and that she performed oral sex on a state lawmaker to gain a lead spot on former Gov. Jack Markell’s executive protection unit. She also said she was targeted for retaliation after spurning sexual advances by other troopers.

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Felecia Phillips Ollie DD (h.c.) is the inspiring leader and founder of The Equality Network LLC (TEN). With a background in coaching, travel, and a career in news, Felecia brings a unique perspective to promoting diversity and inclusion. Holding a Bachelor's Degree in English/Communications, she is passionate about creating a more inclusive future. From graduating from Mississippi Valley State University to leading initiatives like the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Equal Employment Opportunity Program, Felecia is dedicated to making a positive impact. Join her journey on our blog as she shares insights and leads the charge for equity through The Equality Network.

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