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North Jersey Jury Awards an African-American Police Lieutenant $1.2M After He Was Improperly Denied a Promotion

Objective assessment devices can be very helpful tools for employers in selecting new hires or making promotion decisions. For employees, one additional indirect benefit of these techniques is that, sometimes, they expose discriminatory motives on the part of employers. This was allegedly the case for one North Jersey police lieutenant who was denied a promotion despite “acing” the captain’s exam. The denial ultimately led to litigation, and litigation led to the city paying the lieutenant $1.2 million at the end of a trial. The case is a reminder of the substantial harm that can result from improper discriminatory conduct by an employer. If you’ve been harmed at work due to your employer’s discrimination, you should a skilled New Jersey race discrimination attorney about your options.

The lieutenant in this case, as reported by, was an African-American man who had been a member of the police department for more than two decades when he qualified to take the captain’s exam. He didn’t just do well – he got the highest score of all of the individuals who took the exam at that time, according to court documents. He also allegedly did not have any history of disciplinary actions during his years with the department, according to the report.

Shortly after taking the exam, however, the police chief (who was white) allegedly leveled several disciplinary infractions against the lieutenant. Those disciplinary actions left him ineligible for a promotion to captain.

The alleged transgressions were extremely minor. They included failing to make proper copies of paperwork, neglecting to sign his initials on one report, and one instance of being eight minutes late for his shift.

Given the evidence before it, the jury sided with the lieutenant. They concluded that the employer had violated both the Law Against Discrimination and New Jersey civil rights laws by discriminating against the lieutenant based upon his race. When legal liability is found on these bases, the injured plaintiff may be entitled to several different types of damages. There are general damages, which include things like pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
Special damages include things like medical bills and lost earnings. In some circumstances, the harmed worker may be entitled to punitive damages as well.

The jury in this lieutenant’s case awarded him $350,000 in general damages for emotional distress. His special damages totaled well in excess of $650,000, including $570,000 in lost pension benefits, $48,000 in future lost earnings, and $60,000 in past lost pay. On top of those sums, the jury also awarded $250,000 in punitive damages.

The lieutenant’s attorney touted the outcome as a victory for fairness, telling, “Simply put, achievement has no color.”

If you have a reason to believe that you have been harmed at work, including being denied a deserved promotion, because of improper discrimination, consult the knowledgeable New Jersey race discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates about your circumstances and your options. Our team has spent many years fighting to protect workers in New Jersey. Reach us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

North Jersey Police Lieutenant Obtains $300K Settlement in Racial Discrimination Case, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Feb. 20, 2018

New Jersey Supreme Court Upholds $1.4M Emotional Damage Award in Race Discrimination Case, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, March 16, 2017

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