Cop with Expunged Record Sues for Discrimination
December 7, 2009
We found this story on HR.BLR.com about a New Jersey police officer who sued the Morris County Sheriff’s Office for discrimination after he was denied protections of employment from another discrimination suit. That’s right. That was no typo. Read on.
According to the story, “In 1974, when he was 21 years old, “John” was arrested for breaking and entering, and pleaded guilty. In 1990, the court expunged the arrest and conviction from his record. John’s attorney explained that this meant the conviction had effectively never happened and that he would not be required to disclose it if anyone asked.
In 1994, John applied to become a Morris County Sheriff’s Officer. He indicated on the application that he had never been arrested or convicted of a criminal offense. He was hired and began working as an officer.
In 1996, during a blood drive sponsored by the Sheriff’s Office, John and his co-workers discovered that he had hepatitis C. He claimed that his co-workers began to harass him, refusing to shake his hand or eat with him, sanitizing everything he touched, and calling him “hepatitis boy.” John filed a report with his supervisors but claimed that they did nothing to alleviate the situation. On November 14, 2000, John signed out early and never returned to work. He submitted a formal letter of resignation on February 25, 2002.
John sued the Sheriff’s Office under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJ Rev. Stat. Secs.10:5-1 to -49). He complained that the Sheriff’s Office had discriminated against him for his medical condition and that it had allowed a hostile work environment to exist. The Sheriff’s Office countered that John’s 1974 arrest and conviction barred him from employment in the Sheriff’s Office, and that he could not sue because he had never disclosed that arrest and conviction.
The trial court concluded that John was obligated to reveal his prior conviction when he applied for his job, and that because he was thus ineligible for the job, he could not bring an employment lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office. John appealed. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and sent the case back for trial. The Sheriff’s Office appealed to the state Supreme Court.”
Not so fast. The state Supreme Court reversed the ruling saying that an expunged record could not have been considered on a background check the first place and that this was a veiled attempt by the department to divert attention away from the responsibilities to protect this officer against harassment in the workplace.
Check out the full story.