Headlines are swirling about the disparate treatment lawsuit filed by police officer Stanley Boatright, who was the first African American promoted to the rank of sergeant in Logan Township. But what is a claim for disparate treatment?
In Decmeber 2012, Officer Boatright was involved in an off-duty motor vehicle accident and, while being evaluated at a local hospital, underwent medical procedures including tests to evaluate blood alcohol level. When his superior officers arrived at the emergency room, the hospital staff allegedly improperly informed them of Officer Boatright’s medical status (including the results of those blood tests).
Following the incident, Officer Boatright was charged with driving while intoxicated and careless driving; that charge was dismissed on July 31, 2013 and Boatright was cleared to return to work on Aug. 16, 2013. A Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office internal affairs investigation was also conducted, during which Officer Boatright was suspended indefinitely with pay. The investigation concluded on November 14, 2013, at which time he was charged with 18 disciplinary infractions ranging in scope from driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to disobeying various rules and regulations of the Logan Township Police Department. He was then suspended without pay for 60 days and demoted to patrolman with no possibility for promotion for three years (until late 2017). Following the decision, he has filed a civil suit against the department for infringing on his civil rights in violation of New Jersey’s laws against disparate treatment. But what does that mean?
In New Jersey, a number of laws prevent an employer from discriminating against you based on protected characteristics such as gender or race. One of the types of prohibited discrimination is known as “disparate treatment.” This is a special type of employment discrimination claim, where different groups of individuals are not treated the same within the workplace – particularly, when members of a protected group (such as women or racial minorities) are treated less favorably than those in the majority group (typically white males). Disparate treatment can involve paying members of the protected group less, failing to promote them at similar rates or at a similar pace as the majority group members, or subjecting minorities to harsher discipline or different conduct standards – what Officer Boatright alleges happened to him.
Specifically, Officer Boatright claims that numerous Caucasian officers in Logan Township have engaged in on- and off-duty misconduct over the years, including the misuse of alcohol and prescription medication, without being disciplined or suspended as he was. In order to win his case, Officer Boatright will first have to show that he is part of a protected or definable group of individuals; as an African-American minority in his department, he qualifies. He then must be able to demonstrate that he is fully qualified for his job and that he has been negatively affected by the decisions and actions of the Department. If he meets that standard, he must demonstrate that the way he and members of his group were treated was less favorable than members of other groups in similar job situations. – e.g., that Caucasian police officers with similar disciplinary histories who committed similar offenses were not demoted or suspended, like he was. Only if he proves all of these things will he have a chance to recover damages – monetary compensation for his lost wages and opportunities as well as possible compensation for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and attorney’s fees.
Disparate treatment is a form of employment discrimination and is illegal under New Jersey disparate job treatment laws. If you think that your employer has engaged in wrongful discrimination against you, please contact us for a consultation – having a knowledgeable New Jersey disparate job treatment lawyer on your side can make all the difference. Contact us today!