Boston detective alleges gender discrimination and retaliation

The head of the Boston Police Department’s Human Trafficking and Crimes Against Children units has accused the department and her supervisor of discriminating against her because she is a woman, and then threatening her and retaliating against her when she complained.

In a lawsuit filed this spring, first in Norfolk Superior Court and later moved to US District court, Lieutenant Detective Donna Gavin, a 32-year employee of the department, alleges she was given a small cubicle, while her male counterparts had offices. She also alleges that her supervisor, Captain Detective Mark Hayes, deliberately undermined her authority and made spurious complaints about her when she objected to her treatment.

The suit, first reported by the Boston Herald, alleges that Gavin has suffered damages including emotional distress, lost wages, and attorney’s fees.


Gavin’s attorney could not immediately be reached Saturday morning, nor could Hayes’s attorney. A Boston Police spokeswoman said the department does not comment on ongoing litigation.

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In a court filing in May, attorneys for the city argued that the department had gone “above and beyond” to ensure that Gavin was content, by creating a supervisory position overseeing the trafficking and crimes against children units specifically for her; reconfiguring work space to give her an office; and transferring diverse detectives to her unit at her request. Every time Gavin brought concerns to her superiors, the filing states, they responded swiftly and appropriately, including by transferring her out from under the command of Hayes.

In her suit, Gavin alleges that when she assumed command of her units in May 2016, she was given little to no input or influence over which detectives and sergeants joined her team. When she requested more diversity and tried to have an African-American detective transferred in, the suit alleges, Hayes told her that one of her subordinates had “vetoed” the move.

In September 2016, Gavin alleged that her superiors told her they were transferring in two female African-American detectives, but that they would be replacing two other female detectives, instead of a male detective about whom Gavin said she had gotten complaints.

Gavin alleged that Hayes told her not to contact Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh about the transfers, which Gavin said she took as a threat.


The suit alleges that Hayes often sent e-mails criticizing Gavin and her performance to Gavin’s subordinates and outside agencies, and that he allowed her subordinates to circumvent the chain of command. It also alleges that she was refused a private office, despite the fact that men in her position had private offices, and she was later offered an office that overlooked a dumpster.

When Gavin began complaining about her treatment in early 2017, first to her union and within the department, later to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the suit alleges that Hayes retaliated by launching an investigation into her work and filing a 45-page internal affairs complaint against her. He also told detectives under his command that he was going to “get her” and that he kept a “dossier” on her, according to the suit.

Evan Allen can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.