As previously reported, a Union City, New Jersey police department was hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit in May by a female police officer. Now, two male police officers have filed separate lawsuits against a Middlesex County police department alleging sexual harassment and assault by a male police lieutenant.
While it remains to be seen how these cases will play out, they highlight how workplace harassment can be committed by or impact anyone, even those charged with enforcing the law. If you have been harassed at work, talk to an employment lawyer.
In June, two male South River Police Department officers filed lawsuits in Superior Court in Middlesex County alleging a police lieutenant made inappropriate comments and groped them. The lieutenant headed the department’s Internal Affairs Department until he was placed on leave after the officers reported him last year, according to the lawsuits.
One officer claims the harassment started in 2017 when he worked with the lieutenant in the motorcycle unit. “He would make comments about how good I looked in my motorcycle pants,” the officer said. The harassment escalated when the lieutenant touched him after he pulled up on a police motorcycle to the back of police headquarters, the lawsuit states.
The second officer Guiamano claims the lieutenant in 2020 groped his private parts in the detective bureau until the officer felt pain. The officer’s lawsuit also alleges that he was treated differently than other officers because he is Hispanic, in violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.
The officers were reluctant to report a superior out of fear of retaliation but eventually reported him to the police chief in June 2020. The police chief allegedly told them he knew about the lieutenant’s conduct before ordering the men out of his office. Both officers claim their complaints were ignored because they are men and that they were subjected to harassment and ostracism by their fellow officers after reporting the lieutenant.
The lawsuits name the lieutenant, the police chief, and South River elected officials, alleging those in charge knew of the lieutenant’s misconduct and did nothing. The officers allege sexual harassment and a hostile work environment and are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
Why This Matters
Despite state and federal laws that prohibit sexual harassment, a form of unlawful discrimination, the lawsuits against the South River Police Department are a reminder that workplace harassment is commonplace. Although women are more likely to be victimized, men can also be subjected to sexual harassment, and same-sex harassment also occurs.
Regardless of the circumstances, all employees have a right to a work environment free from sexual harassment. If you have been subjected to workplace harassment, it takes an experienced employment lawyer to protect your rights.