Summary judgment in EPL case alleging violations of the NJLAD and the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act.
The plaintiff, a senior corrections officer, alleged that our client, a Lieutenant, discriminated against African-American female trainees by subjecting them to additional physical exercise because their hair did not meet the Department of Corrections Training Academy’s grooming policy. The plaintiff alleged a continuing pattern of discriminatory, harassing and retaliatory conduct on the part of the Lieutenant, spanning 2014 through 2016, after which the plaintiff alleged she was retaliatorily charged with insubordination and later transferred from the training academy to a state prison. The court found that the Lieutenant’s enforcement of the DOC training academy’s grooming policy was not discriminatory, as it was enforced upon all trainees irrespective of race or gender, and was necessary in order for officers to effectively equip themselves with riot headgear. Next, the court found that the alleged “harassing” conduct on the part of the Lieutenant did not amount to a hostile work environment because the DOC is a quasi-military organization which requires enforcement of internal policies, and said policies were enforced by the Lieutenant in a non-discriminatory fashion. Lastly, the court found that the plaintiff failed to establish that the Lieutenant’s charge of insubordination against the plaintiff amounted to reprisal, as the plaintiff had admitted to partaking in insubordinate conduct. Summary judgment was granted by the court and all of the plaintiff’s claims against the Lieutenant were dismissed with prejudice.