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Hudson County

The third-party plaintiff/counter-claimant in this action, a 38- year-old female officer with the Port Authority of N.Y and N.J. police force, alleged that the Port Authority violated her civil rights under federal law through a systematic pattern of sexual discrimination, including inappropriate assignments, unfounded departmental charges, a hostile work environment and inadequate supervision of her superiors. Under a respondeat superior theory, the claimant also alleged that a 54-year-old Chief Inspector made improper advances upon her person and then retaliated because she reported the incident. As a consequence, the female police officer contended that she was treated differently than her male counterparts and was subjected to numerous instances of petty and annoying grievances that made her professional duties difficult to perform. The female police officer contended that these circumstances, taken as a whole, showed that the Port Authority and its Chief Inspector discriminated against her because she was a woman, in violation of state and federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination. The action originally began as a lawsuit brought by the Chief Inspector against the female officer, charging her with malicious prosecution and defamation for reporting the incident in which he ran his hands along her back and sides while she was registering a gun at the Port Authority’s police headquarters in Jersey City.

The Chief Inspector’s action was dismissed on summary judgment as an administrative proceeding, but the female officer’s counter- claims for assault and battery and sexual harassment against the inspector, and sexual discrimination and harassment against the Port Authority, survived.

The female officer charged the Chief Inspector with assault and battery for the way in which he placed his hands on her body and breasts; without her consent, in the workplace, and in a manner that was both personally and professionally offensive to her. The inspector contended that he mistook her for another woman, that he only touched her shoulder, and that her suit was baseless and motivated by a desire to malign and defame his reputation on the police force.

The female officer further contended that the Port Authority had provided a work environment which fostered sex discrimination and permitted the type of conduct displayed by the Chief Inspector.

The female officer testified to repeated incidents where she was singled out for inappropriate assignments that male officers would never receive unless they were partnered with her. She also testified that she was asked personal questions when she called in sick, that she had to put up with male locker room talk, profane references to women, and sexual innuendoes from her peer officers, and that the Port Authority either permitted this type of conduct and conversation to persist, or simply looked the other way.

The female officer also contended that she was subjected to a series of deliberate annoyances such as posters and T-shirts depicting female breasts with hands on them and referencing the alleged assault and battery with mocking indifference. The female officer contended these incidents, in the aggregate, were directed at her because she was a woman and wouldn’t play by the male-dominated rules of the game.

The female officer maintained that the Chief Inspector was often involved in these instances of sexual discrimination, either in retaliation for her administrative charge of assault and battery, or as part of his own discriminatory practices against the female officer. The female officer contended that the commander was responsible for signing departmental charges against her which had no factual basis, such as a radio and doorknob that were alleged to have disappeared during her shift.

The female officer also contended that she was once reprimanded for not showing up at work, despite the fact that she had been rescheduled and her absence was, therefore, expected. The female officer further contended that she was given a permanent assignment at one of the least desirable posts, the 42nd Street Port Authority bus terminal in NYC, while less senior male officers would receive more favorable assignments.

The defense maintained that the Port Authority did not endorse or permit sexual discrimination and denied any pattern of conduct or incidents that would give rise to the female officer’s contentions. The Port Authority also contended that there was in force a written policy against sexual discrimination and that the counterclaims were brought because the female officer was not promoted to detective and was thus trying to obtain undeserved compensation. The Chief Inspector testified that the female officer was not treated differently than her male counterparts and that the assignments she received were doled out equally among department officers. The commander also asserted that any charges or negative actions taken against her were fully justified by regulations governing Port Authority police work and departmental standards of conduct. Further, the Chief Inspector claimed that the incident that occurred between himself and the female officer was a case of mistaken identity and that he never was personally involved in the disciplinary proceedings against the female officer.

The jury returned a verdict of no cause of action for the assault and battery charge brought against the Chief Inspector. With respect to sexual discrimination, the jury awarded the female officer $________ for the inspector’s violation of her civil rights under state law, another $________ for his violation of her civil rights under federal law, and $________ for the Port Authority’s violation of her civil rights under federal law.

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