Judge dismisses former Lincoln Police PIO’s case alleging harassment, discrimination in department

Erin Spilker, former LPD officer, is suing the city alleging harassment, discrimination, sexual...
Erin Spilker, former LPD officer, is suing the city alleging harassment, discrimination, sexual assault, retaliation and a hostile work environment.(KOLN)
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 3:07 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A judge has dismissed former Lincoln Police PIO Erin Spilker’s case against the city because Judge Kevin McManaman said the claims didn’t provide enough proof they met qualifications.

Spilker, who worked for the department for 20 years, alleged a hostile work environment, sex or gender discrimination, retaliation, and constructive discharge.

“We respectfully disagree with Judge McManaman’s decision, but this case is far from over,” Kelly Brandon, Spilker’s attorney said in response.

The allegations range from two separate incidents of sexual assault at the hands of fellow police officers, harassment by multiple different officers and firefighters, discrimination and retaliation by multiple supervisors and co-workers, being denied sick leave, and not being provided a place to pump breast milk and more.

In the city’s motion to dismiss, they didn’t argue against those allegations, instead, they said they didn’t meet the qualifications for the case because claims filed under the Nebraska Employment Protection Act have to be within 300 days of complaints being filed, meaning many of the claims Spilker made, were outside that time frame.

Brandon told the judge these incidents qualified for a waiver of the statute because they were all related to Spilker being a woman. In the judge’s order for dismissal, he disagreed.

“Erin alleges acts of harassment committed by different alleged harassers (LPD officers and firefighters), in different workplaces (LPD, Lincoln Fire and Rescue) and under different circumstances (e.g. 2014 assault by Officer B at Erin’s home and 2015 assault by Officer D at a Halloween party), as well as discriminatory and/or retaliatory acts committed by different supervisors over a 20-year period,” Judge McManaman wrote.

He continued to say the acts are not similar enough in nature, frequency, and severity to be considered a hostile work environment.

McManaman also said other claims were outside the statute of limitations. Including claims that a Brady letter placed in her file saying she lied to supervisors was discriminatory and in retaliation. The letter was placed on her file in 2014, but her NEPA complaints were made in 2021 and 2022.

The judge cited previous case-law that said “discrete acts of retaliation such as termination, failure to promote, denial of transfer, refusal to hire, wrongful suspension, wrongful discipline and denial of training must be raised within the applicable limitations period or they will not support a lawsuit.”

In additional to McManaman not believing the case met requirements for waiver of the statute of limitations, he said the facts presented, didn’t prove Spilker faced treatment, male counterparts did not, making him unable to pursue the allegations of retaliation or constructive discharge.

Brandon, said in a statement, that they’ll be weighing their options and moving forward in a way that allows Spilker’s story to be told and ‘those responsible to be held accountable.’

“That’s what Erin wants: to be a cycle breaker — to make change for other female officers coming up through the ranks. She believes that without any acknowledgment from the City of the discriminatory culture that exists for women, the only way to make that change is through litigation,” Brandon said. “Unfortunately, there are additional lawsuits that will be forthcoming.”

Lincoln City Attorney Yohance Christie declined to comment on this story.