Old Dominion University Found Guilty of Reverse Discrimination Against White Police Officer

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A hearing officer appointed by the Virginia Department of Employment Dispute Resolution has ruled that Old Dominion University discriminated against Brett Birkmeyer, a white patrol officer on the ODU Police Department, because of his race – white – when it fired him in 2005. ODU was ordered to reinstate Birkmeyer, but refuses to do so. The case is In re Brett Birkmeyer v. Old Dominion University (Police Department), Virginia Department of Employment Dispute Resolution, Case No. 8116-R3.

Brett Birkmeyer was a white patrol officer working in the predominantly black ODU Police Department. In 2005 he complained to a number of ODU officials, including the Police Chief, an official in the ODU Human Resources Department, and an official in the ODU Equal Employment Opportunity Office, that he was being subjected to race discrimination by black coworkers. According to Birkmeyer, ODU did essentially nothing to address his concerns.

Unbeknownst to Birkmeyer at the time, an ODU official, who was black, told a black lieutenant in the ODU PD that Birkmeyer had accused the lieutenant of race discrimination. A short time later a black ODU PD officer, who reported to the black lieutenant, placed Birkmeyer and his white sergeant under surveillance while they performed their duties, and brought charges of misconduct against them for allegedly violating ODU PD rules. Birkmeyer and his sergeant were questioned in a videotaped interview by a second black lieutenant, and then were fired.

Birkmeyer filed an official grievance with ODU (Brett Birkmeyer v. Old Dominion University (Police Department), Virginia Department of Employment Dispute Resolution, Case No. 8116-R3) challenging his discharge as being discriminatory. A hearing officer appointed by the Virginia Department of Employee Dispute Resolution conducted a number of hearings, in which he heard testimony from current and former employees of the ODU PD, as well as a number of ODU officials. The hearing officer found that the black officer who had brought the charges against Birkmeyer and his sergeant was “untruthful,” and that Birkmeyer should not have been fired.

The hearing officer also concluded that Birkmeyer and his sergeant were fired because they were white. The hearing officer reached this conclusion based in part upon the incriminating videotape of the interrogation of the white sergeant by the black lieutenant, in which the lieutenant tells the sergeant that the only reason she was fired was that she complained to the black officer that the ODU PD discriminated against whites and was “pro-black.”

The hearing officer ordered ODU to rehire Birkmeyer with full back pay, seniority and benefits, and ordered ODU not to discriminate against Birkmeyer. ODU has refused to comply with the hearing officer’s order, and has filed a variety of challenges to it. Many of those challenges have been rejected, but rulings on some are still pending.

Birkmeyer is represented by attorney Raymond L. Hogge, Jr. Hogge states that he and his client “will fight as long and as hard as necessary” to force ODU to return Birkmeyer to his job and to compensate Birkmeyer for the hardships he has suffered as a victim of reverse discrimination.

For additional information contact Raymond L. Hogge, Jr., (757) 961-5400, rayhogge @ virginialaborlaw.com, or visit the “Press Center” page of his website, ViginiaLaborLaw.com, which provides a link to Hearing Officer’s written decisions.

Norfolk, Virginia attorney Raymond L. Hogge, Jr. specializes in labor and employment law. He represents primarily corporations and local governments, but sometimes represents employees whose cases have special merit or significance.

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