Do you know what it takes to be a state police officer here in New Jersey? It’s no easy task; the statewide force is very particular about who may join its ranks. And if a candidate behaves improperly they could find themselves out of a job. However, does an ill-advised social media post constitute such a dismissible action? A state trooper has filed a new employment discrimination lawsuit and says he doesn’t think so.
How Did a Social Media Post Lead to an Employment Discrimination Lawsuit?
In 1973, during a routine traffic stop, Trooper Werner Foerster was murdered. A woman by the name of Joanne Chesimard was tried and convicted of the crime, but in 1979 she escaped custody and fled to Cuba. Fast forward to today, and her image can be found on t-shirts glorifying her escape. However, such shirts can be insulting to members of the New Jersey State Police due to the loss of a fellow trooper. And that may be the reason one New Jersey state trooper faced alleged discrimination.
This state trooper posted an image of a shirt featuring this fugitive on his Instagram account. He claims that he was unaware of the significance of Chesimard and was only trying to help promote his cousin’s clothing company. Having joined the force in 2013, the trooper was still in his five-year probationary period. During this period, new troopers must pass reenlistment, but this trooper claims the Instagram image angered his fellow troopers, staffers and retired troopers. This allegedly led to his firing when he came up for reenlistment.
Now he has filed a lawsuit claiming that being fired over the image was discriminatory. The lawsuit accuses state police officials of creating minor infractions to justify his dismissal. It claims these infraction reports were fueled by the ill-advised Instagram post, and that they should not be the basis of his firing. The suit further claims that white officers who have committed worse infractions were allowed to stay on the force.
Do you think this lawsuit has merit? Were this trooper’s rights violated? It’s now up to the court system to decide., but the civil trial attorneys at Keefe Law Firm will continue to watch this case and others to see how our courts are protecting your rights.