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New Jersey Township’s First Female Police Officer Receives $355,000 Sex Discrimination Award

PoliceA jury in a federal court in New Jersey recently decided that a woman, who was a township’s first female police officer and who did receive full health benefits upon retirement, won her federal case asserting that her employer engaged in sex discrimination. Having found the employer liable for discrimination, the jury then awarded the officer $355,000 in damages to compensate for past and future health insurance expenses, the Union News Daily reported.

The plaintiff in this case was the first woman ever to serve as a police officer in Union Township. Starting as a dispatcher in the mid-1980s, she rose to become the department’s first woman officer and was later promoted to detective. By 2010, she had decided to retire. Individuals who retired with 25 years of service received full lifetime health benefits for the duration of their retirement. According to this police officer, she had 25 years and two months of service when she retired. This included 20½ years as a police officer with the township, one year as a police officer with the county, three years as a police communications officer for the township, and 10 months as a “safety specialist” with the state DMV.

After multiple alleged conversations with the township police director to ensure everything was in order with her retirement and health benefits, the officer hung up her badge. Four days later, the township notified her that her period of service totaled 24 years and five months and that she must return to work for seven months, or else she would not receive health benefits.

The officer did not go back to work but instead sued for sex discrimination. According to the woman’s complaint, she wasn’t the only person who retired with less than 25 years of total service, but she was the only person to be denied health benefits. Allegedly, the employer credited the other employees with time accrued with other employers and other pension plans in order to get them over the 25-year hurdle.

In any sex discrimination lawsuit, evidence of other employees in similar situations who are not members of your protected class and who received better treatment than you by your employer can make for a powerful compare-and-contrast presentation and go a long way toward proving that the employer’s actions against you were discriminatory in nature. In this case, the female officer’s case included the circumstance of a male officer who, like this female officer, allegedly had his award of lifetime health benefits denied by the same human resources employee who made the determination in the female officer’s case. In the male officer’s situation, though, the police director and township business administrator stepped in on behalf of the male officer, and the human resources employee reversed her decision, meaning that the male officer got the lifetime health benefits the employer denied to the plaintiff, according to the female officer’s complaint.

The plaintiff’s case was strong enough to persuade a federal jury that impermissible sex discrimination had occurred. The jury awarded the woman more than $355,000, which was an amount based upon the cost of the woman’s past and future health insurance premiums.

Whether you’ve been a victim of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or another form of discrimination, the New Jersey gender discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates are here to help. Our attorneys are experienced professionals with many years spent helping workers who have suffered discrimination on the job. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation with one of our skilled and experienced attorneys.

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Divorcing Rescue Squad Employee Allowed to Pursue Marital Status Discrimination Claim, New Jersey Supreme Court Says, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, April 20, 2017

Fired New Jersey Catholic School Counselor Allowed to Continue Pursuit of Sexual Orientation Discrimination Case, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, April 6, 2017

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