A former Tisbury police sergeant has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation on the basis of her sexual orientation and race during and after her time in the department.
The 16-page lawsuit was filed by Kindia Roman, 39, of Westwood in federal district court on Tuesday, Nov. 24 and names the town of Tisbury, police Sgt. Max Sherman and police chief Mark Saloio as defendants.
Ms. Roman worked for the town police department from January 2014 to June 2018, starting as an officer and promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2016. Before her time in Tisbury, Ms. Roman worked for the Titusville, Fla., police department.
Ms. Roman’s current employment status is not mentioned in the complaint.
In the complaint, Ms. Roman she alleges that Sgt. Sherman, as well as other unnamed members of the department, consistently used racist and sexist language against her in the workplace.
Along with the use of derogatory language and racial slurs, Ms. Roman claims that the department retaliated against her financially for personal reasons, offering her smaller bonuses, stipends and raises than other members of the department during her employment.
The complaint states that Ms. Roman told town attorneys and administrative staff about the discriminatory behavior but that no disciplinary action was taken against members of the department by town officials.
“The difficulty of working in this type of atmosphere as a Hispanic gay woman became intolerable, causing the Plaintiff to seek employment with other police departments off of Martha’s Vineyard Island,” the complaint states.
The complaint also alleges that Sgt. Sherman, along with other members of the department, intentionally interfered with Ms. Roman’s application for a job in the Walpole police department during 2018. After being informed that she had not received the Walpole job, Ms. Roman, who had quit her position in Tisbury, attempted to be reinstated to her position on the police force, but was met with delays and told that there was a hiring freeze, according to the complaint.
The federal lawsuit comes fresh on the heels of another lawsuit that the town recently settled with former police Lieut. Eerik Meisner for $400,000.
Mr. Meisner was demoted and then fired from the department in January 2019. He sued the town in federal court in August of that year, alleging among other things that he was wrongfully terminated by Chief Saloio after he conducted an investigation into the department’s treatment of Ms. Roman. Mr. Meisner also was previously employed in the Titusville, Fla., police department and knew Ms. Roman there, according to Ms. Roman’s complaint.
The alleged events described in the complaint span a period of time when the town underwent leadership change in the department. Chief Saloio was hired in 2018 following the retirement of former chief Daniel Hanavan.
According to both complaints, Mr. Meisner found evidence in his investigation that members of the department, including Sergent Sherman, undermined Ms. Roman’s job application in Walpole — allegations that the town has denied.
Both Mr. Meisner and Ms. Roman previously filed Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination complaints in 2019 against the department. Ms. Roman’s complaint has since been removed, the complaint filed in federal court states.
Mr. Meisner and Ms. Roman have the same lawyer, a Needham-based civil rights attorney named Timothy Burke, listed on their legal documents.
Ms. Roman’s complaint seeks an unnamed amount of damages due to her loss of employment, wages and attorneys fees. It also cites emotional distress and damages to her personal reputation, and requests punitive damages due to the defendants “evil motive.”
The Gazette sent an email to Tisbury town adminsitrator Jay Grande late Tuesday seeking comment.