Men and women who serve or have served in the military have made many sacrifices. One of the sacrifices members of the military should not have to make is tolerating a workplace with discrimination and harassment. If you are serving or have served, and you are experiencing this type of workplace mistreatment, you may be entitled to a judgment and substantial compensation. You should get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey workplace discrimination lawyer right away to discuss your legal options.
K.K. allegedly was one of those service members who did have to endure such mistreatment. According to an nj.com report, he was a Marine who, after leaving military service, became a police officer. However, while serving on a force for a borough in Somerset County, he was on the receiving end of an extensive string of offensive comments and other workplace harassment, according to his lawsuit.
Allegedly, the police chief told K.K., who was injured while serving in Iraq and experienced PTSD as a result, after the latter had performed poorly on a shooting exercise, “if you put your gun in your mouth, you wouldn’t miss.” Again noting K.K.’s poor shooting performance, the chief questioned the quality of K.K.’s military service with alleged taunts such as “I thought Marines could shoot, what … kind of Marine are you?”
The chief also allegedly began referring to K.K. as “Private Pyle.” (“Private Pyle” was the nickname given to a fictional Marine recruit in the movie Full Metal Jacket who experienced a mental breakdown during boot camp and killed his drill instructor and himself.) The officer filed an internal affairs complaint against the chief, but the borough allegedly never disciplined the chief in any way before his retirement.
Under a new chief, K.K. applied to join the SWAT team. K.K. passed the physical exam. He passed the firearms test. He also passed the psychological exam, although the doctor noted concerns about K.K.’s PTSD, according to the officer’s lawsuit. K.K. did not make the SWAT team.
Shortly thereafter, K.K. went from being disqualified from the SWAT team to being suspended and charged with being unfit for duty after another psych exam. Allegedly, K.K. was told that the unfit-for-duty charge would be dropped if he filed for disability retirement. However, according to his complaint, the department refused to send the retirement system the necessary information required to process K.K.’s completed application.
In the end, the officer was able to resolve his discrimination lawsuit successfully with a settlement that paid him $100,000, according to nj.com.
Two different types of illegal discrimination
The hostile treatment this police officer endured could potentially represent two different forms of illegal discrimination in New Jersey. In this state, discrimination based upon an employee’s present or past military service is a violation of the law. The law bans employers from refusing to hire, refusing to rehire, firing, demoting, or harassing a worker based upon his military service. In K.K.’s case, the chief’s questions like “what kind of Marine are you?” and comparisons to a fictional Marine recruit who was severely mentally unstable could be the foundation of a case based on harassment predicated upon K.K.’s military service.
Additionally, K.K.’s situation also represented a possible case of disability discrimination. K.K. had PTSD and, based on that, the employer took adverse action. Be aware that, under the law, you do not actually have to have a disability to win a disability discrimination case. The key factor is not your true status, but what your employer believed.
In other words, if your employer took adverse action against you because you had a disability, that’s potentially disability discrimination. If your employer took adverse action against you because your boss thought you had a disability – even though you had no disability at all – then that’s still a potential case of disability discrimination.
Discrimination and harassment are wrong. New Jersey law is designed to stamp out these insidious elements present in too many places of employment. If you’ve been harmed by discrimination or harassment, waste no time in reaching out to the experienced disability discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have many decades of collective experience helping workers just like you to protect their rights. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.