Harassment claims not protected as personnel records
COLORADO–Records of sexual harassment claims against a Commerce City policeman are not protected by the personnel records exemption to the Colorado open records statute, a Court of Appeals in Denver, Colo., ruled in mid-February.
The public has a compelling interest to see that public entities conduct their internal reviews of such matters “efficiently and clearly and effectively,” the court wrote. That interest outweighs any need for confidentiality by individual employees, it said.
Cathy Daniels, a litigant against the city in a sexual harassment lawsuit, had filed an open records request for claims against the police officer she said had been harassing her. The city agreed to give her records involving her own case but said that records involving other victims were exempt as “personnel records.”
She sued for the records in Adams County District Court which ruled in July 1997 that the records were not exempt. The city appealed.
Daniels, who had worked for Commerce City in its police department for 12 years, sued the city in 1997, claiming in her complaint that she had been forced to resign by the continued harassment by the officer. She claimed that he had also retaliated against her for her testimony on behalf of another victim whose sexual harassment claim had resulted in his demotion.
The appeals panel said that the personnel files exemption which lists as exempt home addresses, telephone numbers, financial information and “other information maintained because of the employer- employee relationship” did not cover sexual harassment files which are unlike the other kinds of information delineated in the exemption.
The court also rejected arguments by the city that the records were exempt as investigatory. (Daniels v. City of Commerce City; Plaintiff’s Attorney: Clifton Hypsher, Englewood)