Ex-Trooper Can Pursue Sex Discrimination, Harassment Claims

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Delaware State Police by a former female trooper who alleges that she was the target of sexual harassment and retaliation.

Nicole Hantz claims that she was subjected to a hostile work environment, involuntary transfer and termination, and retaliation. The judge ruled Friday that she had stated a plausible claim for each count.

The attorney general’s office argued on behalf of the DSP and Department of Safety and Homeland Security that the case should be dismissed because Hantz filed her claims too late, failed to exhaust her administrative remedies and failed to establish any basis for alleged retaliation or gender discrimination.

Court records indicate that Hantz, formerly known as Nicole Oldham, began working for the state police in 2002 and was fired in 2018 one week after she filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

She filed a lawsuit last year alleging bullying, disparate treatment, denial of benefits, and sexual advances and harassment.

Among other things, Hantz claims that when she was selected for the Executive Protection Unit, or EPU, which is charged with protecting the governor, male troopers falsely claimed that to get the job she performed oral sex on a lawmaker who is a retired trooper.

She also alleged harassment by another retired trooper-turned lawmaker, including an email falsely stating that she had conducted a traffic stop with her child in her car. She also claimed that after returning from vacations, she would often find her patrol car with flat tires, missing equipment or signs of vandalism.

Hantz alleges that supervisors repeatedly ignored and shrugged off her reports of harassment and misconduct, including sexual misconduct by a fellow EPU member.

Instead, she was told not to make so many arrests because her arrest rate was making some of her male troopers look bad in comparison, and was required to deliver more death notifications and investigate more child fatalities then her male peers, according to the lawsuit.

Hantz claims that the harassment led to extreme emotional distress and drove her to take medical leave in 2018, and that a supervisor improperly shared details of her medical leave with other troopers.