Haddon Township Police Department LawsuitOctober 19, 2015
A Haddon Township, New Jersey police officer claims he was wrongfully terminated after he asked for a medical accommodation to resolve his degenerative eye disease. He also alleges that he was repeatedly and continually sexually harassed by the Chief of the department, and that his request for light duty was declined because he refused the Chief’s sexual advances. The officer is suing the department for reinstatement of his job and back pay.
The focus of this case concerns two employment law matters. The first is whether the officer was wrongfully denied a reasonable medical accommodation so he could manage his eye disease. The second issue is whether he should have been given the benefit of being assigned to temporary light duty, as the department has a policy that makes this allowance for officers recovering from work injuries. Also under that issue, it is important to decipher if the officer was denied these requests because he repeatedly refused the sexual advances of his superior.
Request Denied and Suspended without Pay
The law enforcement officer had requested that the same accommodations be extended for his degenerative eye condition, which is called Stargardt Disease, as when he sustained a shoulder injury in the line of duty and was assigned to nine months of light duty in 2012-14. Not only was his request denied, but he was suspended without pay and forced to use his paid time off when he informed his superiors of his eye disease diagnosis. After two appeals, the situation worsened and he was placed on involuntary medical leave and then notified he would be terminated in 11 to 12 weeks. A hiring announcement was posted on the Haddon Township Facebook page the same day the officer was put on leave.
The plaintiff’s doctor stated the officer’s only restriction was that he could not drive at night or in unfamiliar areas, but he was otherwise medically cleared to continue working. The officer fully intended to return to regular duty as soon as his treatment concluded.
Haddon Township Claims Precedent not Discrimination
The Chief of Police and the Township attorney decided not to allow medical accommodations for the officer, presuming many other officers would seek lighter duty on the pretense of incurring an injury on the job. The department took the position that if they made accommodations for the plaintiff’s medical condition, they would be expected to make the same accommodations for all officers who suffer injuries while off duty, as well as those on duty. The lawsuit asserts that light work duty was readily available and plentiful so it should not be reserved for police officers injured on the job. Moreover, the officer alleges that light duty assignments were discriminatory because they could only be assigned at the discretion of the chief.
The ruling in this case will heavily consider the allegations of repeated sexual harassment by the chief toward the officer, as well as examine if the chief’s reaction to the plaintiff’s consistent refusal of his sexual advances were what motivated the adverse employment decision. The decision to take the harassment charges to a jury trial will take a few weeks followed by year-long pre-trial discovery.
South Jersey Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C., Advocate for Employees who suffer Wrongful Termination
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work or have been wrongfully terminated, call South Jersey employment lawyers of Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. We will review your case and help you choose the legal strategy that will ensure a successful outcome. Our New Jersey harassment lawyers aggressively defend the rights of employees who are discriminated against from filing a claim to any necessary litigation.
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