DENVER – A judge was right to find that the Colorado State Patrol discriminated against a former captain who was denied re-employment after the agency learned he was gay, a state appeals court said Thursday.
But the way Brett Williams was awarded nearly $600,000 in damages was technically incorrect and needs to be reconsidered, according to the decision. The court reversed the “front pay” damages, money a judge concluded Williams would have earned had he been rehired, but let Williams keep more than $172,000 in back pay.
Williams, unable to find work in law enforcement, wants his old job back. An administrative judge declined to order him reinstated, finding the work environment would be too hostile. But he hopes new leadership and time have changed that, his attorney Scott Moss said.
“We hope officer Williams is reinstated to the job he loved and that the state patrol acts like law enforcement officers and not the homophobic law-breakers multiple judges have confirmed they were,” Moss said.
The state personnel board will now reconsider the damages and whether Williams should be rehired. Trooper Alisha Danko, a state patrol spokeswoman, said only that the agency is “letting the court process work.”
The issue arose after Williams left the agency to become a helicopter pilot but later asked to return. During a polygraph test, Williams was asked a question that forced him to reveal his sexual orientation. The question concerned a legal massage he received in Thailand that involved sexual contact with a man.
An administrative law judge concluded that patrol leaders used the test to deny Williams’ reinstatement, contrary to law-enforcement hiring standards. Williams suffered and would continue to suffer from the patrol’s discriminatory actions against him, the judge said in awarding Williams more than $768,000 in 2013.
The state patrol appealed the ruling, and Williams cross-appealed.
“Williams was over-qualified for the reinstatement position of trooper, he had a reputation for integrity,” the appeals court said in its decision, noting that the state patrol had hired other applicants who had failed their initial polygraph exams.