Tuesday, April 23, 2024

MSU settles racial discrimination, harassment lawsuit with former police employee

March 25, 2024
Michigan State University Police Department on Thursday, April 6, 2023.
Michigan State University Police Department on Thursday, April 6, 2023. —
Photo by Jack Armstrong | The State News

Michigan State University has settled a lawsuit with Crystal Perry, a former HR administrator at MSU Department of Police and Public Safety, for $25,000. 

Perry filed the suit in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of Michigan in February 2023, alleging rampant racial discrimination, harassment and profiling by numerous officers and supervisors during her time in the department, then called the MSU Police Department. 

“Ms. Perry is pleased to be able to resolve the matter amicably with the university, and she's looking forward to moving forward with her life,” Liz Abdnour, Perry’s attorney, said.

MSU declined to comment on the settlement. 

MSU Department of Police and Public Safety spokesperson Dana Whyte declined to comment, saying, “unfortunately we are unable to comment on ongoing litigation," in a text message to The State News. 

The lawsuit is not ongoing and was dismissed on Feb. 15, 2024, court records show. 

MSU is paying Perry for “her claimed non-economic mental and emotional distress damages, as well as for attorneys fees and costs,” said the settlement agreement, which was obtained through a public records request. 

MSU denies any wrongdoing or liability in relation to the allegations made in the lawsuit. 

"No actions taken with respect to this Agreement shall be construed as an admission by MSU of any act of wrongdoing or liability of any kind, all such liability and wrongdoing being expressly denied," the settlement said. 

The lawsuit focused on an alleged lack of disciplinary action for those who discriminated against Perry by her supervisors: then-MSUPD Chief Marlon Lynch and Chief of Staff Daryl Green. Perry, Lynch and Green are Black. 

In the suit, Perry said she had already filed complaints with MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, as well as made internal complaints with MSUPD and MSU’s HR department, but that none of these actions produced a result. 

After filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Perry received a Notice of Right to Sue, which prompted the lawsuit. She said the lawsuit was the final option to hold MSU accountable. 

The suit said Perry was one of four Black employees in the 140-person department when she was hired and that within her first few weeks, several white employees “told Perry they were unhappy MSUPD hired her.”

The suit alleged that one white employee, Captain Kennedy Parker, told her that other employees felt Perry’s position included their previous responsibilities and that she should “watch her back.” Parker also told Perry that the department should “get rid of her,” according to the suit. 

Parker allegedly told Perry that employees were upset that Lynch touted Perry’s hire as a step toward achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion and that she “didn’t like the word diversity.”

On her first day, Perry was brought to a “small, dirty broom closet” that was supposed to serve as her office, the suit said. 

Perry then asked assistant chief Doug Monette if that was the typical arrangement, to which he replied, “This is what you get if you want to work at MSUPD.”

Perry took Monette’s statement to mean the office was “what she personally ‘got’ for wanting to work at MSUPD, rather than what a white or Caucasian person would get.”

The suit also accuses MSUPD of not providing Perry with adequate office supplies. 

Following repeated requests by Perry for a computer, the MSUPD employee responsible for setting up office equipment, John Prush, “appeared in Perry’s office to reprimand her” and told her she should “save everyone the trouble and just go back where she came from.”

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The suit said Perry reported this incident to Green, the chief of staff, who “did nothing” to address the “threats.”

Perry eventually was able to move into a bigger office following renovations, but after six months, was forced to move back to the old office because the bigger office was assigned to a new hire who was a white man, the suit said. 

Green, named as a defendant in the case, claimed Perry “engineered” the complaints against colleagues and that she was “argumentative” during her time with the department. 

In July 2022, Green fired Perry due to “performance issues,” according to university documents attached as exhibits in the lawsuit. 

Green resigned from his position and became the University of Alabama Birmingham’s Vice President of Public Safety and Chief of Police three days after he fired Perry.

Lynch resigned from his position as MSU DPPS vice president and chief safety officer in March 2024, and now works as associate vice chancellor at the University of Colorado Boulder in its division of public safety.

After being fired, Perry applied to an HR administrator position in the MSU College of Nursing, and was offered an interview, which she accepted. However, two days after the confirmation of the interview, she was notified that her interview offer had been revoked due an MSU HR notification that her application couldn’t be considered at the time. 

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