A policewoman’s lot is not a happy one

McMullin v. Miss. Dep’t of Pub. Safety, No. 14-60366 (5th Cir. Apr. 6, 2015).

Lieutenant Gayle McMullin worked for the Mississippi Highway Patrol, training cadets. She learned that the director of the Highway Patrol’s training department had recently stepped down, so she applied for the open position. 

Lieutenant McMullin had 25 years of experience with the Highway Patrol, about half of that spent in training cadets. She had a spotless record. She was eminently qualified for the position she applied for (as the Highway Patrol itself admits).

The Highway Patrol, however, chose to fill the position with Master Sergeant Marshall Pack. Master Sergeant Pack was lower-ranked than Lieutenant McMullin. He had seven fewer years of service than Lieutenant McMullin. And, unlike Lieutenant McMullin, Master Sergeant Pack’s record was far from spotless: the Highway Patrol had fired him twice. The first time was for sleeping with a confidential informant. He was rehired because other officers who had slept with informants hadn’t been fired. The second time he was fired for a number of violations, including “seizing cash from a potential target without accounting for the seizure” (read “embezzlement”). After this second firing, it seems, Master Sergeant Pack threatened litigation, and in a settlement his firing was rescinded.

Lieutenant McMullin is a white woman. Master Sergeant Pack is a black man. When Lieutenant McMullin was denied the position she applied for, she sued under Title VII. The district court granted summary judgment to the Highway Patrol. The Fifth Circuit reverses, ruling that a jury must decide Lieutenant McMullin’s claim.