By JENNIFER CABRERA/Alachua Chronicle

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – Alachua County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Davis has filed a discrimination and retaliation complaint against Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr. in the Eighth Judicial Circuit.

Davis previously filed charges of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) in February 2022 and received a Notice of Determination from FCHR in October and a Notice of Suit Rights from the EEOC in January 2023.

Davis was employed by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ASO) from 1999-2001, was rehired in 2004 after going to college, and currently serves as a Sergeant in the Patrol Division. Watson became Sheriff on January 5, 2021.

In the complaint, Davis describes the promotion process at ASO: eligible employees may take a promotional exam and must achieve a minimum score to be placed on the eligibility list, the top candidates are given an opportunity to interview with either the Sheriff or Undersheriff, and the Sheriff or his designee makes the final decision based on relevant experience, background, performance history, discipline history, and other job-related factors. Davis claims that since Watson took office, he and other Caucasian employees have “continuously been passed over for promotion and transfer because of their race” and that he has been third on the promotion list for lieutenant for the past 17 months. Davis states that he filed an internal complaint about racially-based discrimination in promotions at ASO but says he received no response, leading to the filing of the charges with EEOC and FCHR.

Davis provides several examples of minority candidates being “promoted, reassigned, or otherwise selected over a Caucasian candidate, with the deciding factor being race.” One example is a black male who was ranked fifth on the Sergeant’s promotional list and was selected over four non-minority candidates and given a position that is highly unusual for newly-promoted Sergeants, who are usually assigned to patrol. Another black male was named as “acting” lieutenant in spite of not being one of the top five candidates and not being eligible for promotion to lieutenant at the time. Another black male was promoted to lieutenant over eligible non-minority candidates although he was not in the top five of the lieutenant promotional list. A black female was hired in spite of a “known criminal history and numerous racially motivated social media posts.”

Davis states in the complaint that Watson requires photos to be submitted with the paperwork for promotions, transfers, and special assignments and that the photo “serves no other purpose than to confirm the race of the employee.”

Davis submitted a complaint to Human Resources in August 2022 when a black male who was eighth on the promotion list was promoted to lieutenant over him. In January 2023, two white males were promoted to lieutenant, and Davis claims that this was an act of retaliation and “an effort to conceal discriminatory intent” because both had lower test scores and less supervisory experience than Davis.

The complaint asks the court to provide relief by “mandating [Watson’s] obedience to the laws,” providing financial damages, enjoining Watson from future violations of the law, and awarding attorney’s fees and costs.

Davis is represented by Tiffany R. Cruz of Cruz Law Firm in Tallahassee.

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