Detroit— Five police officials have filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court claiming they were demoted because of their age.
Frankie Lewis, Duane McKissic, Gary Sroka, James Suchoski and John Serda were demoted in October 2013 by Police Chief James Craig as part of a major departmental shakeup.
Several other officials also were demoted or promoted as part of the restructuring, and the lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Detroit, claims most the officers who were reduced in rank were in their 40s, 50s and 60s, while those promoted were younger.
Lewis, 50, Suchoski, 49, and McKissic, 51, were demoted from the rank of commander to lieutenant; Serda, 58, from commander to captain; and Sroka, 60, from lieutenant to inspector. All were performing their jobs “satisfactorily,” the lawsuit said.
“Other similarly situated employees who were significantly younger than Plaintiffs were demoted,” the lawsuit said. “Similarly situated employees who were in their fifties were also demoted.”
The demotions “created a hostile and negative working environment,” according to the lawsuit.
Charlotte Croson, attorney for the officers, said: “These officers were demoted on the basis of their age. Some were forced into retirement.”
Serda and Sroka are still with the police department, and Croson said there’s a concern they might be retaliated against for filing the lawsuit.
“Any time someone still works for the people they’re suing, there’s a concern for retaliation,” she said. “If that happens, there are legal remedies for that.”
Detroit police officials did not respond to requests for comment. City and police officials generally avoid discussing ongoing lawsuits.
The officers are seeking more than $75,000 in damages, the suit said. It’s unclear how the city’s bankruptcy will affect the case, Croson said.
“There are a couple different options,” she said. “Litigation could proceed or be stayed; that’s up to the judge.”
U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn and Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub will preside over the case.