A Tucson police captain was the subject of sex discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation after challenging a demotion in 2012, a federal lawsuit says.

Diana Duffy was hired by the Tucson Police Department in 2000 and worked her way up to the rank of lieutenant in 2011, according to the lawsuit, filed Oct. 17 in U.S. District Court . At that time Duffy went by the last name Lopez.

In August 2012, an anonymous letter to the department claimed Duffy “engaged in misconduct of a sexual nature” on department property and that the act was videotaped and sent to other employees, according to the lawsuit.

The department opened an internal investigation into the incident and the assigned sergeant, Brian Peasley. He alerted City Attorney Mike Rankin to the letter, saying he believed Duffy was the victim of sexual harassment and that the incident should be handled as an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation, which are handled “far more discretely” than other types of internal investigations, the lawsuit says.

Despite Peasley’s comments, the internal affairs investigation proceeded as normal and was not considered an EEOC investigation, the lawsuit says.

During her interview with internal affairs, Duffy said she recorded cellphone videos in her home and sent them to her boyfriend, a fellow officer , and also took a provocative photo of herself in her uniform shirt. Peasley told Duffy the case was most likely going to be closed soon, but that did not happen, according to the lawsuit.

When investigators spoke to the ex-boyfriend, he admitted that Duffy sent him the private videos and that he played them for five other TPD officers. Investigators questioned several officers who said the videos had been sent to their cellphones by the boyfriend or other employees, and other officers described viewing the videos in the armory, on the shooting range and during a social event at Trident Grill, the lawsuit says.

Several supervisors were aware that the videos and photo were being passed around and shared but never reported the subordinates they knew to be involved. One then-captain was eventually issued a letter of reprimand for failing to report that an officer in his unit was sharing the video. Duffy’s ex-boyfriend received an 80-hour suspension, according to the lawsuit.

“None of the men that TPD was aware had seen the sexually explicit photographs and/or videos ... were sanctioned by TPD for failure to report,” the lawsuit says.

In September 2012, Duffy met with Assistant Chief Kathleen Robinson, who told her that she thought Duffy was being targeted because she was a female officer. But shortly after the meeting, Robinson agreed with the department’s findings that Duffy be demoted for creating “the potential for major adverse impact” on the department, according to the lawsuit.

Duffy was demoted in November 2012 and appealed the discipline with the city’s Civil Service Commission in January, but it voted to uphold the demotion.

After the decision, TPD released the complete internal affairs investigative report to local media outlets and the case made national news, the lawsuit says.

After her demotion, Duffy was assigned a night shift. She applied for several promotions over the next year-and-a-half, but was rejected for all of them, according to the lawsuit.

In 2013, Duffy challenged the demotion in Arizona Superior Court and in May 2014, a judge found that the sanction was unreasonable because all of her conduct was “private and personal” and that the Civil Service Commission’s decision to uphold the demotion was without cause.

After months passed without her rank being restored, Duffy sent letters to the department and the Civil Service Commission, requesting that she be reinstated to lieutenant and receive back pay. She was returned to her lieutenant status on August 20, 2014 and eventually received “a portion” of the requested back pay, the lawsuit says.

In April 2013, before Duffy challenged the demotion in state court, she filed a charge of discrimination with the Arizona Attorney General Office’s Civil Rights Division. In December, the EEOC determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that Duffy was discriminated against due to her sex, and that the department “retaliated against her for engaging in a protected activity by placing her on a permanent night shift and denying her a sergeant position that would have resulted in an increase of pay,” according to the lawsuit.

On July 21, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division issued a “right to sue” letter in the case, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says that the city of Tucson, being the governing agent of TPD, denied Duffy equal employment opportunities and violated her civil rights.

By her ex-boyfriend and the other officers making Duffy’s private actions into a “public spectacle,” it created a hostile work environment for Duffy, as “numerous male TPD employees, without her consent, disseminated and shared photographs and videos of (Duffy’s) private sexual conduct,” the lawsuit says.

“The conduct of TPD and its employees was severe and pervasive such that it created a hostile, abusive, or offensive work environment and unreasonably interfered with (Duffy’s) work performance,” the lawsuit says.

After Duffy filed the discrimination charge with the Attorney General’s Office, TPD retaliated against her by placing her permanently on a night shift for nearly a year, failing to promote her to a field training sergeant promotion and repeatedly passing her over for promotions after she was restored to lieutenant, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is asking for an unspecified amount of money for actual, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees.

Duffy is currently a captain stationed at operations division west.

City Attorney Mike Rankin has previously said that his office doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlinschmidt

Public safety reporter covering police, fire, courts, and sports-related legal issues.