A transgender police officer has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Oklahoma City Police Department and has been placed on paid leave while she and the department try to work out their differences.
Paula Schonauer's lawsuit, filed December 20 in Oklahoma County district court, does not discuss specific incidents of harassment. Her attorney, Doug Friesen, declined to go into details Tuesday, while efforts continue to resolve the dispute and return her to the police force. She also filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in September, even though she was not fired.
Friesen said both lawsuits were filed to prevent her claims from being negated by statute of limitation issues and as a precaution in case no agreement can be reached between Schonauer and the department. "I am certainly hopeful this can be worked out," Friesen said. "It has always been her goal to continue to serve as a police officer working with the public."
Schonauer was taken off patrol and given an interim clerical role before she was placed on leave about two months ago. Her skills and abilities are being evaluated to determine what her future role should be with the department, Friesen said.
Police spokesman Capt. Jeffrey Becker said Tuesday he would have to check into the matter before commenting on Schonauer's lawsuit and status with the department.
Schonauer, 38, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound Gulf War veteran, decided in September 2001 to become a woman and change names from Paul to Paula. Police officials said at the time that as long as Schonauer could continue to perform well on the job, the officer would be treated the same as anyone else in the department.
Friesen said Schonauer has been successful in improving community relations programs between the police department and Asians, Hispanics, and gays and lesbians. "One of the areas being looked at is establishing a position that would allow her to continue and expand those programs," he said. Schonauer joined the police department in April 1992 after serving in the U.S. Army.