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2 New Jerseys retaliation claims allege police chief backlash

Getting along with everyone at work can be difficult. Mismatched personalities and work style or policy conflicts can create distance among employees or between a worker and a manager. In some Bergen County businesses, company officials signal displeasure with employees through pay cuts, job transfers, demotions or outright dismissals.

Two long-time police officers have filed notices of claim with plans to sue their employer, Jersey City, for $5 million. The men, once members of the Special Investigations Unit, claim they were transferred to undesirable positions last year over their political views. The officers believe the mayor and current police chief retaliated against them for investigating the chief for possible improprieties during the last mayoral campaign.

The job transfers for both plaintiffs occurred in October, following the election of Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and a changeover at the helm of the police department. A controversy over one of Fulop's campaign advertisements set off the alleged retaliation. The ad featured an actor wearing a Jersey City police uniform sitting next to Fulop.

Since the use of the uniform was unauthorized, SIU was ordered to investigate the source. The actor admitted the uniform he wore was loaned to him by an officer, identified through a picture as the soon-to-be police chief. SIU's findings were reported to internal affairs.

The lawsuits contend, once the police chief took power, he reassigned everyone who was part of the SIU investigation to other jobs. The complaint alleges the chief punished the officers who didn't support the Fulop's campaign and rewarded those who did. One plaintiff was bumped down to dispatcher while the other was placed on a late night shift.

New Jersey employers have a lot of flexibility about the way they treat workers. However, employment laws shield workers from discrimination, harassment and retaliation. When employers engage in illegal labor practices, workers can seek compensation through civil claims.

Source: The Jersey Journal, "More lawsuits for Jersey City top cop: Were officers reassigned over Fulop campaign ad probe?" The Jersey Journal, May. 21, 2014

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