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NJ Policewoman Says Retaliation Resulted from Blowing the Whistle on Collective Bargaining Violations

An officer in the Rockaway Township has filed a whistleblower lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court claiming she was unfairly retaliated against for pointing out that a new overtime policy went against collective bargaining agreements. The officer claims the retaliation is against the state’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act. The case was made public by the Superior Court in Morristown, NJ last week.  

The plaintiff, Patricia Abrahamsen, claims that after her complaint she was removed from the detective bureau which resulted in a $3,000 a year pay cut.   

According to the suit, Abrahamsen “raised concerns” that the new overtime policy for detectives, announced in 2011 by Chief Ardin, violated the collective bargaining agreement because it had not been negotiated.

As a result, Abrahamsen said, she was transferred to the patrol division and had her pay cut.

Abrahamsen, 53, said this was also age discrimination, pointing out that she was replaced by another female officer 17 years younger.

Abrahamsen said she also suffered sex discrimination because despite her “lengthy tenure” as a detective and “seniority,” two male officers were given better schedules.

Abrahamsen said her treatment was a violation of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, or the “whistleblower” law, because it came in retaliation for her pressing the issue of the alleged violation of the collective bargaining agreement.

Her suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, along with damages for “humiliation, mental and emotional distress.”

The lawsuit also claims that Abrahamsen was subjected to sex and age discrimination because of speaking up. Her replacement in the bureau was a woman 17 years her junior.  After being moved to the patrol division she was given a worse schedule than two male officers despite her lengthy tenure and seniority.  

Rockaway Township Police Chief Walter Ardin argued that these changes were not made because of the complaints:

We always want to get new faces in the detective bureau. We want to open our officers to new experiences and not keep things stagnant,” Ardin added, saying a detective with even more seniority than Abrahamsen was transferred out before she was.

Ardin pointed out that the detective who replaced Abrahamsen was also a woman and added, “As we get older, everybody who works under us is going to be younger than we are.”

Ms. Abrahamsen was transferred slightly over a year after her objections to the police chief implementing policies that were not covered in the CBA.

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