Lawsuit: Mich. CO was retaliated against after reporting coworker’s use of the ‘N’ word

A lawsuit against his department claims he was demoted, harassed as a result of the report

Corrections1 Staff 

LANSING, Mich. — A lawsuit filed by a black corrections officer alleges officials demoted him and retaliated against him after he filed a complaint about a coworker calling him the “N” word. 

The Detroit Free Press reports that Michael Doss fired a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections and Captain Frank Sawyer last week. Doss, who has worked for MDOC for 13 years, alleged he was “rapidly climbing up the employment ladder” when he chose to confront a deputy warden about a conversation at a Christmas party last year. 

According to the lawsuit, Deputy Warden Lee McRoberts, who is white, was speaking with Sawyer about an upcoming interview McRoberts had for a position at another prison.  

“You can’t go anywhere,” Sawyer allegedly told McRoberts, according to the lawsuit. “I don’t want a n----- for a boss.” 

According to the suit, that alleged comment was made based on Sawyer’s assumption that Doss would be chosen to fill McRoberts’ position if he left for another job.  

According to the lawsuit, Doss told McRoberts he planned to report the racial slur as a violation of the department’s policies. Subsequently, Doss alleges, he has been demoted from captain to lieutenant and  "subjected to a culture of racism that has been ignored, cultivated, and/or perpetrated … (by) co-workers, secretaries, supervisors, and other individuals in management." 

Doss also alleges in the suit that his complaint was investigated and Sawyer received a five-day suspension after admitting to making the comment. According to the lawsuit, Sawyer “laughed and bragged about (the remark) to other MDOC staff members” and said he would use vacation days to cover the suspension. 

Chris Gautz, a MDOC spokesman, told the Detroit Free Press the department can’t comment on specifics of the suit, adding that some of the claims referenced are currently being investigated by internal affairs. 

"The department takes this claim seriously," Gautz told the Detroit Free Press. "All MDOC employees deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and should be treated fairly. Retaliation is not tolerated in this department and all claims of such are investigated with the utmost seriousness." 

Sawyer and McRoberts, who is not a defendant in the case, did not respond to emails from the Detroit Free Press requesting comment. 

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