If you’ve read this blog before, chances are fair that you have read about male police officers (and sometimes chiefs) behaving badly. Although the vast majority of law enforcement officers in this state are highly dedicated, highly respectful, and highly professional people, the problem of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in New Jersey is a recurring one. This is not something with which any should have to put up. If you have encountered gender discrimination at work, whether or not you work in law enforcement, you owe it to yourself to reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey gender discrimination lawyer as soon as possible.
As with any sort of hostile work environment case, a police officer’s lawsuit faces certain distinct challenges. One of those may be the statute of limitations, which says that, in the pursuit of your case, you can only rely on instances of discrimination if they occurred sufficiently recently. In gender discrimination cases, that period generally is two years.
As one recent Appellate Division court ruling highlighted, though, there’s a way for you to use both the more recent and the older instances of gender discrimination you endured to strengthen the overall effectiveness of your case.
In that recent Appellate Division case, the plaintiff was D.P., the only female police officer for a local township department in Bergen County.
When a plaintiff alleges a hostile work environment, the worker must demonstrate that the instances of discrimination they endured were particularly extreme or, in other words, “severe,” or else show that the discrimination happened with considerable frequency (or was “pervasive.”)
D.P.’s case was an example of the latter. According to her lawsuit, the officer, during “virtually every shift, from the day she started until the day her employment ended… was subjected to sexual jokes and to male officers calling each other extremely offensive names” like the “p-word” and the “c-word.” Additionally, there were nearly daily acts of male officers playfighting in front of D.P. by trying to strike each other in the genital area.
There allegedly was more, including male colleagues subjecting D.P. and others to pornographic videos. Then there were the handmade drawings of male genitalia. According to the lawsuit, those were so numerous and happened so frequently that D.P. would have to do “sweeps” to remove them all before taking children on tours of headquarters.
Evidence of Older Harassment as Crucial ‘Background’ Supporting Your Case
The statute of limitations for gender discrimination in New Jersey is two years. In D.P.’s case, she worked for the police department for 12 years and allegedly endured discrimination virtually from her first day to her last.
Clearly, then, some of the discrimination – perhaps even the majority of it – occurred outside the two-year limitations period that the law allows. Even when your case is one like that, those older instances of discrimination do not automatically become 100% useless to you just because they’re more than two years old.
New Jersey caselaw is clear that “when the complained-of conduct constitutes ‘a series of separate acts that collectively constitute one unlawful employment practice[,]’ the entire claim may be timely if filed within two years of ‘the date on which the last component act occurred.” This means that the statute of limitations will not be a basis for throwing out your case entirely, even if the vast majority of the instances happened outside the two-year window, as long as some of the discrimination occurred within two years.
Secondly, those older instances can still play a key role in your case. The courts have said that, while you cannot base your discrimination case on instances outside the two-year window, you can still use those older acts of discrimination. You are allowed to present those instances to the court and frame them as critical “background evidence” that lends further credibility to your assertions about the instances that occurred within the most recent two years.
Discrimination is often a complicated matter. If you have suffered gender discrimination at work, you know that it is something that does not simply happen one day and then never occurs again. To make the strongest possible legal case from the discrimination you endured, you need a legal team with the right set of skills. Count on the experienced New Jersey sex discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. We’ve helped countless women and men who’ve endured gender discrimination on the job, and we’re ready to help you use the legal system to get you everything that you deserve. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today and set up a free and confidential consultation to find out how we can help you.