Public servants and first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, often work overtime due to the unpredictable nature of their jobs. Many of these workers rely on overtime pay in order to make ends meet and financially support their families. Unfortunately, however, overtime pay is not usually a guaranteed job benefit, and may change as a result of budget cuts.
Patricia Abrahamsen, a police officer from Rockaway, New Jersey, has filed a lawsuit against the township due to the way in which it implemented a change to its overtime policies. Abrahamsen began working as a civil servant as a bus driver, but eventually became a police officer. She continued to work her way through the department until she achieved her dream of becoming a detective. As a detective, Abrahamsen often worked significant amounts of overtime and was known throughout her town as a "good" officer.
When the department adjusted several policies in 2008, however, the amount of overtime work officers could perform became limited. Abrahamsen claims that this change was a violation of the police union's contract because it was not negotiated before it was implemented. Since she did not believe the policy change was appropriate, Abrahamsen complained to her supervisor and asked him if she could still be assigned overtime work when possible. Her lawsuit alleges that following her complaint, she was told that if she was unhappy about not being allowed to work overtime, that there were many other people who would be willing to work in the detective bureau in her place. She also claims that she was demoted soon after questioning the policy change.
Following her demotion, Abrahamsen also claims that she was replaced by an officer with seventeen years less experience, and believes that the change in position was due to age discrimination and retaliation. Abrahamsen's lawsuit seeks lost pay as a result of her demotion as well as damages for humiliation, anxiety, and emotional distress. In response to the allegations, township officials claim that neither Abrahamsen's age nor her initial complaint about a reduction in overtime hours had any impact on their decision to demote her.