A gay man is suing the California Highway Patrol (CHP) for decades of abuse, harassment, and discrimination while on the job.
Jay Brome dreamt of working for the CHP, a law enforcement agency in the Golden State with jurisdiction of all of California’s highways.
He spent two years working on getting into the academy. When he finally did, he ended up patrolling the Contra Costa County in 2008, but not without costs to himself, his reputation, and his dignity.
Attorney Gay Grunfeld filed a 55-page brief on 29 November in the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco on behalf of Brome. The brief argues a jury should hear Brome’s case.
Last March, a judge dismissed Brome’s previous lawsuit on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. Now he’s trying again, with Grunfeld arguing the dismissal was an error.
‘The harassment began during Officer Brome’s academy training,’ Grunfeld wrote in the brief. When his career officially began in 1996, it continued for over two decades.
The humiliation and abuse he suffered
‘There was bullying or name-calling – “fag”, “gay”,’ Brome recalled to the Sacramento Bee about his time spent in the academy. ‘I had an instructor that told me … to take my skirt off and start acting like a man.’
During one exercise, Brome alleged that a fellow cadet pulled a gun on him. Then the other man reportedly stated: ‘I know you’re gay, tell me you’re gay or I’ll pull the trigger.’
Brome said he had to leave the job, after giving decades of service, due to the effect the harassment had on him.
‘What was happening was I would drive around in my patrol car and for no reason I would just be crying, tears just running down my face,’ he revealed.
‘I was getting these urges to kill myself, and it was this sudden urge while I was driving my patrol car and it just said, “Pull out your gun and shoot yourself.”‘
He added he had no backup or support within the agency.
Not an isolated feeling
Despite no one stepping up for him, Brome wasn’t the only CHP officer to experience such treatment.
Another employee, Ken Stanley, served for 30 years and then sued. He was targeted for being perceived as gay.
‘I’m straight, I’m not gay. But some of the other sergeants I worked with didn’t like me, so they took it upon themselves to portray me as gay by posting pictures in the sergeant’s office,’ he said.
In one instance he said he found a bloody tampon in front of his office door.
‘It’s your typical macho environment (where) to other less-educated individuals in the workforce there can be no greater insult according to them than portraying somebody as gay,’ he added before comparing the CHP to the Catholic Church, in that they ‘deny everything’.
Four fellow officers provided documents supporting Brome’s lawsuit.
One wrote: ‘I observed plenty of homophobic behavior towards and about gay men at the CHP, including myself.’
The CHP did not respond directly to Brome’s case. In a statement by spokesperson Fran Clader, however, they said this:
‘It is the policy of the CHP to provide equal employment opportunities for all persons without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex (includes sexual harassment, and gender identity), physical or mental disability, political affiliation/opinion, marital status, sexual orientation, or medical condition. Equal opportunity in employment practices will be made on the basis of merit, efficiency, and fitness consistent with state civil service and merit system principles.’
This is the latest lawsuit in the US over LGBTI discrimination in the workplace.
Last month, a firefighter sued the city of Norfolk, Virginia.