A former security officer in the University Police Department is suing GW for racial discrimination after officials refused to rehire him in 2013 following a drunk driving charge.
Bernard Nono, who worked at GW from 2005 to 2013, is suing the University for $2.9 million, alleging that he wasn’t rehired because of his race, according to a complaint document filed in the U.S. District Court last month. He was born in Cameroon, the complaint states. There have been at least six discrimination complaints filed against UPD since 2010 – Nono’s’ case is the at least the fifth regarding race discrimination.
The complaint alleges that two white UPD officers were not terminated despite having their licenses revoked, though an agreement with GW says employees must have the proper D.C. license for their job, according to the complaint. Another officer was hired despite previously pleading guilty to a DUI, according to the complaint.
The complaint demands that GW pay Nono for past and future losses, unlawful employment practices and emotional damages – at least $525,000, or “the maximum amount allowed by law.” The complaint also demands $2.4 million in compensatory damages, according to the complaint.
University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar declined to comment on the suit, citing University policy not to comment on pending litigation. She confirmed that Nono’s lawyer, Joseph Fah, is a former employee at GW.
Fah declined to comment on the case. Nono could not be reached for comment.
Nono was arrested after a car accident on April 1, 2012 when he was charged for driving “while impaired by alcohol,” according to the complaint. He was released the same night, according to the complaint. While he was in custody, Nono immediately contacted UPD to inform them of the incident, according to the complaint.
The following morning, Frank Demes, the assistant chief of police at the time, suspended Nono pending an investigation, according to the complaint. Demes “confiscated” Nono’s security officer’s license, locker room keys and ID card, and “instructed him ‘not to be in the workplace,'” according to the complaint.
“Mr. Nono was shocked because of these extreme measures; he became very depressed and contemplated suicide,” the complaint reads. “Mr. Nono seeks redress of this humiliation.”
GW promised Nono “in writing” at the time that his license would be reinstated following a ruling on the case. Nono also regularly updated former University Police Department Chief Kevin Hay about the status of the investigation. Hay left GW in 2014 and did not return a request for comment.
Nono was placed on unsupervised probation for 12 months after a trial in December 2012, according to the complaint. Hay declined to reinstate Nono at that time, saying he would need to get his license reinstated through the Metropolitan Police Department Security Officers Management Branch. Nono applied for a license, was rejected, and challenged the decision in January 2013.
But in May 2013, GW terminated Nono before the ruling was complete and did not inform him of the results of the investigation, according to the complaint. On Aug. 2, 2013, the court ordered MPD to issue Nono a license, reversing the previous rejection decision, according to the complaint. But when Nono reapplied for his position at UPD later that month, GW “refused to hire him,” according to the complaint.
The complaint also alleges that other officers in UPD were not suspended or terminated from their positions after their licenses were suspended.
Two white UPD officers, Jeffrey Kerch and Christopher Brown, were not suspended or terminated after their licenses were suspended, according to the complaint. Kerch and Brown are listed as employees in GW’s directory and did not return requests for comment.
“What is more, another GW officer – born in the United States – was involved in a terrible car crash and was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. She was neither suspended nor terminated,” according to the complaint.
When GW refused to hire Nono, they hired another “far less qualified candidate” who had entered a guilty plea on a DUI, according to the complaint.
Nono filed a formal complaint for employment discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2014. Last year, his case was transferred to the D.C. Office of Human Rights, the document shows. The office formally issued an “administrative dismissal” of his complaint and gave him permission to sue in federal court on Dec. 24 of last year, according to the complaint.
In 2014, two former UPD officers, Aaron Johnson and Todd Ladson, filed individual lawsuits against the department after alleging that they faced racial discrimination while working at GW. In 2010, when Nono was working with UPD, two officers filed racial discrimination charges against former interim UPD Chief James Isom.
Last year, former UPD officer Linda Queen sued GW claiming that two of her supervisors in the department sexually harassed her.
The complaint also alleges that Nono won a series of awards under former UPD chief Dolores Stafford. Stafford said in an email that she does not have copies of the awards and has no knowledge of Nono’s case.
“The Department maintains those records and can determine what awards he received and when,” she said.
The awards show Nono’s “unblemished record at GWU” and include best attendance, professional appearance and safety officer of the year, according to the complaint.
Nono received no awards starting after 2010, the same year that Hay was hired, according to the complaint. For those three years, he “continued to perform his duties with the same dedication, if not more, as he did under the reign of Ms. Dolores,” according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges that another security officer, Lamika Joseph, was charged with a DUI in August 2013 and was not suspended or terminated while she was on probation in Maryland State Court. Joseph, who could not be reached for comment, was fired in 2015, according to the complaint. She is not listed in GW’s directory.
GW “terminated Ms. Joseph only after Mr. Nono complained about this disparate treatment,” according to the complaint.
Derrick Hemphill, another UPD employee, was hired in 2013 with “far less experience than Mr. Nono,” despite the fact that he was arrested for a DUI in 2007, according to the complaint.
Hemphill said in an email that Nono did not apply for the same position. Hemphill said he is also black and has not experienced any discrimination while at GW, adding that he thinks the lawsuit is “a little ridiculous.”
“It sounds like Mr. Fah and Mr. Nono are trying to get money from the University,” he said.