Female Union City cop files suit alleging male superior sexually harassed, retaliated against her

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A female Union City police officer has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that her male superior sexually harassed her, created a hostile work environment, and retaliated against her when she complained about his conduct.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Despite Plaintiff’s continued complaints to supervisors of the Union City Police Department, the Police Chief of the Union City Police Department, and Internal Affairs, and despite the Union City Police Department’s knowledge of the harassment, the hostile conduct continued without abatement,” the three-count lawsuit, filed on May 12th, says.

“Therefore, Plaintiff has continued to suffer a hostile work environment, which has significantly affected her health and ability to work, causing Plaintiff serious stress and forcing her to take days off from work.”

Police Officer Samantha Martinez is the only female member of the ESU unit and has been with the department since 2014.

The lawsuit came to fruition after she submitted an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Questionnaire  on September 17th, 2020 and the EEOC issued a Right to Sue Notice on February 11th of this year.

She alleges in the complaint that Lt. Steven Matulewicz “began a campaign of discrimination, harassment, and creating/sustaining a hostile work environment” once she started working the overnight tour between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. – commonly referred to as the “power shift.”

Beginning on February 29th, 2020, Matulewicz is accused of routinely referring to another lieutenant, Martinez’s direct supervisor, as her boyfriend, which later degenerated into¬† comments like “he hoped she’s sucking you real good” despite there being no romantic relationship between the two.

According to the court filing, Matulewicz made similar remarks about Martinez and another male officer, and also refused to assign her to the ESU truck during his shift – allegedly calling her “fake ESU” since she was the only female member of the unit.

Furthermore, Matulewicz is said to have ignored COVID-19 protocols as they related to Martinez, sending her out on two “report only” calls despite Order No. 2020-07 telling superiors not to send officers out in this fashion for their safety.

Through the suit, Martinez indicates that this led to friction with other ranking members of the department, including one instance where Sgt. Lester Hernandez refused to come to a scene where she had made a traffic stop involving Department of Public Works employees last June.

While she included this in her official incident report, Hernandez rejected it, despite it previously being approved by a lieutenant.

Since sergeants do not have the authority to reject reports, it was assumed that Matulewicz did so the day before when he was working a shift with Hernandez – something that the internal affairs unit later confirmed.

Then, on June 25th, Captain Joseph Botti called Martinez in to discuss this report rejection and this was the first time she told a superior officer about her continued issues with Matulewicz, which was then reported to internal affairs.

She was subsequently interviewed by them twice and submitted a formal complaint to Police Chief Nichelle Luster afterwards since internal affairs didn’t ask her for a written statement, the complaint says.

Finally on July 7th, Martinez learned that Matulewicz was transferred to the communications, or radio, room to ensure that they would no longer be in contact with one another.

Despite this fact, she still faced retaliation from Hernandez, who would allow her to respond to high priority calls, or “hot jobs,” like the rest of ESU if she was on a walking patrol and was later was threatened to be disciplined for wearing her uniform after her shift ended.

Around this time, Botti and Lt. Ricardo Ocasio – a good friend of Matulewicz – continued to look for reasons to discipline Martinez, according to the suit.

Matulewicz is also later said to have shown up at an off-duty detail sight Martinez was assigned to despite being on desk duty.

She allegedly continued to face more harassment in the form of graffiti being found inside the men’s bathroom stall that included “Sam is a rat” and “Samantha records cops.”

Then in November, Sgt. Alex Armas was accused of trying to run the license plate of Martinez’s personal vehicle, which he later admitted to and faced discipline for, according to allegations in the court filing.

Other ranking officers, including Lt. Glen Gaston – a Fraternal Order of Police representative – allegedly told Martinez that she is a troublemaker and shouldn’t be trusted.

As a result, Martinez is seeking punitive and liquidated damages, “an allowance to compensate for negative tax consequences,” clearing her record of defamatory “memoranda and documentation,” equal employment training for the defendants, as well as extraordinary, equitable, and injunctive relief.

Martinez is represented by Helene Herbert, a partner at the Englewood-based law firm Herbert and Weiss, LLP.

A city spokeswoman did not return an inquiry seeking comment on Wednesday, though the city typically does not comment on pending litigation.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Many Union City police officers are cowards and use their authority to manipulate girls and women. With the help of other officers and other factions of authority like the ESU Port Authority and Customs, they have the resources to continue to prove that the police are the biggest thugs out there.

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