Female New Jersey police officer sues for discrimination and harassment

The plaintiff chose to file her claims based on state laws.

In July 2017, a former Rochelle Park police officer filed a lawsuit in New Jersey state court against her former employer, alleging sex discrimination and sexual harassment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, known as NJLAD. Her complaint alleges systematic harassment and other illegal actions that went on for many years, causing a hostile work environment, emotional distress and financial harm.

Specifically, she states that the unlawful treatment caused:

  • Loss of hair
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Panic attacks
  • Severe anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression

Allegations in her complaint

The plaintiff sued the police chief, the township, the police department and undiscovered entities. In her complaint, she provides detailed descriptions of the circumstances she alleges constitute illegal discrimination and harassment against her based on her gender and as the only policewoman over a period of about 13 years.

Some of her allegations about her workplace experiences:

  • Repeated exposure to explicit images and videos
  • Comments degrading to women, yelling, and verbal disrespect, intimidation and humiliation
  • Comments about the plaintiff's appearance
  • Sexual jokes
  • Unequal career and educational opportunities as compared to those of male officers
  • Denied requests for work assignments instead given to men with less seniority
  • Exclusion from male-only work events
  • Denial of proper childbirth leave and breast-pumping breaks
  • Harassment for being a single mother
  • Retaliatory behavior like meaningless assignments, berating, and threats of suspension or termination after plaintiff consulted a lawyer and her union
  • Forced retirement on an earlier date than that advised by her accountant and approved by retirement officials
  • No corrective action after plaintiff complained about the discrimination and harassment
  • And more

The complaint contains eight counts:

  • Hostile work environment based on gender, marital status and familial status in violation of NJLAD
  • Adverse employment actions in violation of NJLAD
  • Retaliation in violation of NJLAD
  • Willful violations of New Jersey wage-and-hour laws
  • Violation of state public policy
  • Violations of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act and state constitutional equal protection rights
  • Vicarious liability of the township and police department as employers for the discriminatory and harassing acts of employees
  • Punitive damages (meant to punish) based on the defendants' malice and "wanton and willful disregard" of the plaintiff

Seek legal advice

New Jersey legal advocates for women and for workers will watch this case with interest as it winds its way through the court. Employment discrimination is a complicated interaction between state and federal laws, agencies and courts. It is essential that anyone who has been unequally treated at work or who has experienced harassment based not only on gender, but also on other protected characteristics like age, disability, religion, race and others, speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to understand and make decisions regarding all legal options for recovery.

The lawyers at Morris, Downing & Sherred, LLP, in Newton represent people who have experienced sex discrimination and sexual harassment as employees or job applicants, as well as other types of illegal employment discrimination, across northern New Jersey.