In May, a Union City police officer filed a lawsuit against the police department and a lieutenant alleging sexual harassment at work and retaliation after she reported it. The city does not comment on pending litigation, and it remains to be seen how this case will play out.
The lawsuit highlights the prevalence of sexual harassment in New Jersey workplaces, however, despite the fact that all workers have a right to a work environment free from harassment. If you have been harassed on the job, it takes an experienced employment lawyer to protect your rights.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff, a female police officer, reported a superior lieutenant after he insinuated that she was involved in sexual relationships with her direct supervisor and another officer. The lieutenant also allegedly insulted her and sent her on assignments that were supposed to be suspended due to the pandemic.
After reporting him and going through the internal affairs process, the plaintiff allegedly began experiencing harassment from other officers in retaliation, and the police department failed to stop it. The officer filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Though the EEOC declined to file charges, the agency issued her a right to sue letter. The EEOC typically issues a right to sue notice when a dispute cannot be resolved through mediation and the agency believes the claimant has a valid case.
The plaintiff, the only female member of the Emergency Services Unit, joined the department in 2013. The lawsuit alleges that the lieutenant:
- Referred to the plaintiff’s direct supervisor as her boyfriend
- Started rumors that she had a sexual relationship with another officer
- Called her “fake ESU”
- Refused to assign her to the ESU truck because of her gender
After she reported the offending lieutenant in June 2020, she was reassigned to another unit, went through internal affairs interviews, and was subsequently disciplined for wearing her uniform after hours, allegedly in retaliation.
The lawsuit claims the plaintiff was continuously subjected to a hostile work environment, which affected her health and safety and caused her to take sick leave. The lawsuit is seeking compensation for emotional distress, as well as lost benefits and promotional opportunities.
Why This Matters
The sexual harassment lawsuit against the Union City police department is a reminder that no workplace is immune from offensive conduct. When conduct or comments rise to the level of a hostile work environment, it is crucial for employees to know their rights.
Given the challenges of taking legal action against an employer that fails to stop sexual harassment, it is crucial for victims to have proper legal representation. If you have experienced harassment in your workplace, talk to an employment lawyer.