A law enforcement officer working for the New Jersey Attorney General's Office has filed a whistleblower protection lawsuit against the Attorney General for alleged retaliatory action taken against him after he reported claims of sexual harassment. Sergeant Keith Stopko claims that his title of "Acting Lieutenant" was taken away as "payback" for going against a superior officer who Stopko had reported for sexual harassment violations.
In 2010, Stopko was serving as an acting lieutenant for the NJ Attorney General. As part of his duties, he was required to respond to claims of misconduct brought to his attention by subordinate officers. At one point, Stopko was alerted by one of his detectives that Lieutenant John Torrey had subjected officers to unsafe working conditions and had sexually harassed female officers. In response to these allegations, Stopko reported these claims to his superior officer, who said assured him that the Attorney General's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office would handle the matter.
Stopko states that instead of investigating the claims, Lieutenant Torrey and his supervisor began making false allegations against him. Furthermore, Stopko claims that he was stripped of his title, reassigned to a new division, denied a promotion, and forced to report to lower or equal ranking officers. Stopko alleges that the embarrassment caused by these actions made him suffer from depression that required him to go on medical leave. When Stopko questioned his superior officer about why these changes occurred, he was told that he was put on a "black list," and would never be promoted, because he "went against" Lieutenant Torrey by exposing the sexual harassment allegations. Torrey was later fired, but there are no records explaining the reason for his termination.
Stopko is now suing the Attorney General's Office for damages resulting from his depression, embarrassment and humiliation, emotional distress, medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, demotion, and personal expenses. Stopko believes that the negative personnel action taken against him was pure retaliation for properly performing his job duties. Additionally, the detective who originally brought the sexual harassment complaints to Stopko's attention has also sued the NJ Attorney General's Office for sexual harassment and retaliation.
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