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Mys v. Michigan Department of State Police

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 28, 2018

Linda Mys, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Michigan Department of State Police, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: March 8, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan at Grand Rapids. No. 1:10-cv-00794-Robert J. Jonker, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Jeanmarie Miller, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Collin H. Nyeholt, LAW OFFICES OF CASEY D. CONKLIN, PLC, Okemos, Michigan, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Jeanmarie Miller, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Collin H. Nyeholt, LAW OFFICES OF CASEY D. CONKLIN, PLC, Okemos, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Before: GILMAN, ROGERS, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          RONALD LEE GILMAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

          A jury found that the Michigan Department of State Police (the Department) had retaliated against Linda Mys, a former desk sergeant with the Department, by transferring her from her longtime post in Newaygo, Michigan, to a post in Detroit. Department officials initiated the process that culminated in Sgt. Mys's transfer shortly after she had filed the second of two complaints alleging sexual assault and sexual harassment by Sgt. Richard Miller, one of her coworkers. Sgt. Mys was awarded $350, 000 in compensatory damages.

         On appeal, the Department argues that the district court erred in denying (1) its motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial; and (2) its motion for a remittitur. The Department thus disputes that the trial record contains any evidence from which a reasonable jury could have found in Sgt. Mys's favor or upon which the jury's award could be justified.

         Contrary to the Department's assertions, the record contains ample evidence that supports the jury's verdict and award. We therefore AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         A. Factual background

         1. Sgt. Mys assigned to the Newaygo post

         Sgt. Mys joined the Department as a trooper in 1987, and she began working at the Newaygo post in 1999 upon her promotion to sergeant. She subsequently bought a home in Sand Lake, Michigan, which is 15 miles from the Newaygo post. Her permanently disabled mother then moved to Howard City, which is eight miles from Sand Lake, so that Sgt. Mys could care for her.

         2. Sexual-assault and sexual-harassment complaints

         In 2005, Sgt. Mys alleges that she became the object of unwanted sexual advances by Sgt. Miller. This conduct reached its nadir in June of that year, when Sgt. Miller allegedly showed up uninvited to Sgt. Mys's house and sexually assaulted her. An internal investigation, however, deemed those allegations "nonsustained, " meaning that the available evidence neither confirmed nor dispelled them. The Department therefore took no action against Sgt. Miller. Sgt. Mys filed a second complaint against Sgt. Miller in 2007, alleging continued sexual harassment, but the subsequent investigation determined that her allegations were "unfounded." A more in-depth account of these events is set forth in our prior opinion in this case, Mys v. Michigan Department of State Police, 590 Fed.Appx. 471, 472-475 (6th Cir. 2014).

         3. The Department temporarily assigned Sgt. Mys to the Rockford post while seeking her permanent transfer elsewhere.

         During the events relevant to this case, Captain (now Colonel) Gary Gorski was the highest-ranking officer in the Department's Sixth District, which encompasses the Newaygo post. As such, he participated in and recommended the ultimate outcome of both internal investigations initiated by Sgt. Mys's complaints. Before the second investigation's results had even been finalized, Cpt. Gorski emailed his direct supervisor, Major Barry Getzen, and a human-resources director with the Department, Debbie Gilmore, to request that Sgt. Mys be assigned to a different post.

         This request was based on a process called a "special circumstances transfer, " which is governed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiated between the Department and its employees' union, the Michigan State Police Troopers Association. Cpt. Gorski explained that a transfer was necessary due to Sgt. Mys's complaints against Sgt. Miller:

This is the third time she, Linda Mys, has filed a UD-93 [formal complaint] on Detective Sergeant Miller in the past two years. I am confident that complete and thorough investigations were completed resulting in none of the allegations being sustained.

(Although Cpt. Gorski and other Department officials at times refer to three complaints filed by Sgt. Mys, only two were discussed ...


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