Religious Discrimination and Retaliation
Settled December 2009
Several years ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought a complaint against the Newark Police Department (NPD) on behalf of officer Anthony Kerr and others, on the grounds of religious discrimination. Despite the City's efforts to repeatedly challenge the court rulings, all the way to the United States Supreme Court, Kerr and the EEOC eventually won the case. Among other things, the court rulings allowed Kerr to wear a beard while performing his duties as a police officer. In retaliation for his successful suit, the NPD misused its disciplinary system, "which functions based on alternating purposes, and, for uneven application amongst the workforce for racism, nepotism, separatism, cronyism and … preferential treatment or favoritism." Specifically, NPD filed a number of unfounded disciplinary charges against Kerr, and subjected him to multiple police trial boards, each having "gross procedural errors for intentional results, discriminatory bias, and disparate treatment." These trial boards ultimately led to his being terminated as a police officer. Kerr then commenced a federal case (No. 08-cv-3660) against the NPD and several officers involved in the retaliation and discrimination against him. On or about December 8, 2009, Kerr and the City settled the case, with Kerr receiving $129,178.14 from taxpayer coffers.
Note: None of Kerr's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement likely states that the $129,178 payment does not constitute an admission of liability by Newark or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Newark, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Kerr $129,178 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial — it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened — or what consequences, if any, came to the individuals accused in the suit.