Lawsuit Against Port Authority Police Department Alleges Sexual Harassment, Asserts Claims for Wrongful Termination and Civil Rights Violations

Port_Authority_Police_Department_(4940370899).jpgA police recruit has filed a federal lawsuit against the Port Authority of New York and Jersey Police Department (PAPD) and others, alleging that supervisors subjected her to sexual harassment throughout her training, that she never received the level of attention and instruction received by other trainees, and that she was ultimately forced out of the training program. Holley v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, et al, No. 3:14-cv-07534, complaint (D.N.J., Dec. 3, 2014). The lawsuit does not specifically cite state or federal employment statutes, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Instead, the lawsuit asserts causes of action for civil rights violations, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and several intentional tort claims.

The plaintiff entered the Port Authority’s police academy as a recruit in August 2013. She alleges that, from the start of training, her instructors “harassed and discriminated against her for being a young woman.” Holley, complaint at 5. They routinely singled her out, she claims, for taunts and other disparate treatment that was not related to her training, and that was based specifically on her gender and appearance. For example, she states that instructors referred to her as “American Girl Doll” and “Barbie Doll.”

Prior to entering the academy, the plaintiff worked for the New Jersey Department of Corrections as a social worker. She claims that her supervisor held that job against her and regularly said she lacked the “gumption” for law enforcement. Id. at 6. Other recruits reportedly commented on the extent of the harassment and expressed sympathy for the plaintiff. The alleged harassment at times went beyond taunts. During a pepper spray test, she claims that she was sprayed by more than four officers, including one who was not certified to participate in the test, which was far more than any other trainee received. Her swollen face resulted in taunts about Botox treatments.

The instructors allegedly never provided the plaintiff with the one-on-one instruction that other recruits received. She was informed on December 2, 2013 that she had failed the firearms test and was advised to resign. She claims that she never received any feedback on her performance in firearms tests, nor was she told why she failed the exam. She refused to resign and was terminated two days later.

The plaintiff’s complaint asserts seven causes of action. First, she claims due process violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in connection with the alleged failure to provide her with any information about her purported failure of the firearms test. She also claims violations of her First Amendment rights under § 1983, based on her instructors’ alleged retaliation against her for discussing the possibility of filing a formal complaint with fellow recruits. The plaintiff claims wrongful termination, citing “a clear mandate of public policy concerning the public health, safety and welfare of the public and protection of the environment.” Holley at 20. Finally, she asserts causes of action for civil conspiracy under both common law and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985 and 1986, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assault and battery.

The sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates advocate for the rights of New York City workers who have experienced sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and other unlawful employment practices. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

More Blog Posts:

How the EEOC Defines Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 18, 2015
Lawsuits by New York City Police Officers, Longshoreman Allege Sexual Harassment by Supervisors, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 28, 2015
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against New York City Hospital Asserts Claims for Infliction of Emotional Distress, Slander, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 14, 2015
Photo credit: By Andrés Nieto Porras from Palma de Mallorca, España [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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