RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond police asked a judge to throw out a federal discrimination lawsuit from an officer who claimed he was passed over for a promotion because of his race and age and faced retaliation after filing an official complaint.
U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. rejected the department’s effort in May, setting up a jury trial for December. But the case didn’t make it to court, as records show the city settled the lawsuit for $75,000 on Nov. 28.
Naitraj David, an Asian American of Trinidadian-Indian descent in his 50s, filed a federal lawsuit alleging he was not considered for an open acting sergeant position in 2019 despite being one of only two master patrol officers qualified to fill the role.
Richmond police did not appoint the other master patrol officer — a Black man over the age of 40 — but instead tapped a white officer in his 30s for the position, according to court documents.
In his lawsuit, David claimed unlawful discrimination based on race, national origin, age and retaliation for protected activities after he filed an official complaint. He alleged the department’s decision denied him a salary increase, benefits and career path opportunities.
Richmond police Captain Daniel Minton, who selected the officer for the position, told David he picked the other officer to see how he would perform as acting sergeant ahead of a potential permanent promotion, according to the suit.
The department’s human resources chief sent a letter to David acknowledging the decision violated Richmond police’s internal policy that only master patrol officers can fill the temporary position, the lawsuit claims, but that he was not discriminated against during the process.
After voicing concerns to department leadership and filing a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June 2020, David claims Sergeant Jeremy Nierman took steps to retaliate against him.
This includes accusations that Nierman failed to provide David with proper protective equipment and support as he responded to protests in Richmond during 2020 civil unrest and said that he wished to “take David’s stripes” on June 13, 2020.
In a May 27 court filing, the city denied that its police department defied its own rules when appointing the other officer, intentionally discriminated against David and that he faced retaliation.
The city did, however, admit to some of the accusations David laid out in his lawsuit. Among them, the city acknowledged that an officer overheard Nierman complain about two master patrol officers and later say, “if he could, he would ‘take their stripes.'”
David’s lawsuit, initially filed in the Eastern District of Virginia in July 2021, survived the city’s push to have it tossed.
“Because David sufficiently pleads that race, national origin, and age served as the basis of RPD’s decision to not promote David to Acting Sergeant, David’s discrimination claims survive RPD’s motion,” Judge Gibney wrote in a May 13 opinion. “David’s retaliation claim also survives because David sufficiently alleges that RPD took materially adverse action against him for raising discrimination claims.”
Once Gibney denied the motion to have the lawsuit thrown out, online court records show a jury was scheduled for Dec. 21, and a settlement conference was set for Sept. 30. A follow-up settlement conference was set for Nov. 2 and the case was settled and closed on Nov. 28, records show.
Full terms of the settlement are unclear, but David was suing for a court order declaring that the city violated his rights that would prevent the police department from any further violations and require it to promote a policy against discrimination, backpay, benefits, damages and more.
The Richmond City Attorney’s Office withheld all records on the settlement, citing an exemption in the state open records law that allows it to keep records “specifically for use in litigation” from being disclosed. “The settlement amount in this case was $75,000,” Neil R. Gibson, senior assistant city attorney, wrote in an email.
A Richmond police spokesperson confirmed the settlement amount but said the department is “not at liberty to discuss any further details” but that policies preventing violations of employee discrimination “already exist” and are available online.
David and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.