Phoenix Settles With Officer Who Says She Faced Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Harassment

The City of Phoenix has agreed to pay $75,000 to Candice Wilson, a former Phoenix police officer who says she experienced retaliation after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a fellow officer.

Due to the terms of the settlement, neither party is able to comment on the lawsuit.

However, court records show that Wilson claimed she had been sexually harassed by Sergeant Dave Saflar in 2012, while both were guests at a wedding in Las Vegas. The lawsuit doesn't include any details about the alleged incident.

Wilson's complaint was investigated by the city's Equal Opportunity Department, which determined the allegations to be "unfounded and inconclusive."

The investigators concluded that Wilson "was a willful participant in the off-duty activities and banter by which she was allegedly offended," and noted that she had been under the influence of alcohol. They also noted that there was no evidence to suggest a pattern of pervasive or ongoing harassment.

As a result of filing the complaint, though, Wilson says that she faced retaliation and hostile working conditions that ultimately forced her to resign.

Wilson's lawsuit claims that her colleagues in the Robbery Unit began to write up memos about supposedly unprofessional behavior on her part. Two officers complained that she had posted inappropriate messages on their Facebook page, a claim which investigators found to be trivial and unfounded.

According to the lawsuit, an unnamed lieutenant also told Wilson's sergeant that "we need to get rid of [Wilson] because she made the complaint [alleging sexual harassment.]"

When the sergeant responded, "Boss, you can't say that, it's retaliation," the lieutenant "proceeded to invent a few other reasons for 'getting rid' of Wilson."

In 2015, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause to believe that Wilson had been subjected to a hostile work environment because she'd filed a complaint about sexual harassment. By then, however, she'd already left the department.

Lawyers for the city denied that any retaliation had taken place. They also argued that the EEOC's determination was erroneous and lacking in merit.

From the city's response to Wilson's lawsuit:

Prior to filing a grievance with the EOD, Wilson revealed to fellow officers that she was experiencing personal problems. She had emotional outbursts in the workplace including sobbing, yelling, making vulgar statements or engaging vulgar actions along with expressing overwhelming anger toward fellow officers. Officers acted as a sounding board and offered suggestions including that she seek professional help.She did not. Her bad behavior escalated.
Although officers worked with her in a professional capacity, her angry outbursts and unpredictable behavior made her unpleasant to be around. She was neither 'ostracized' nor retaliated against for filing claims with the EOD or EEOC. She was given commendations for her work when appropriate and disciplined for her actions when appropriate.

Nonetheless, the city agreed to a $75,000 settlement. The payout was approved by the Phoenix City Council on Wednesday night.

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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.