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Court rules racial slurs created hostile workplace for police officer

By Chris Rizo | Jul 31, 2008

New Jersey Supreme Court justices

NEWARK, N.J.(Legal Newsline)--The New Jersey Supreme Court on Thursday sided with a Jewish police officer in Haddonfield, N.J., ruling that derogatory comments against him created a hostile work environment and violated his constitutional rights.

The high court's ruling affirms an earlier decision by a jury that sided with Officer Jason Cutler. The court also remanded the case back to a lower court for more consideration.

In his lawsuit, Cutler said then-Chief of Police Bill Ostrander commented on his Jewish ancestry "a couple times a month" and often referred to him as "the Jew."

Police Lt. Lawrence Corson was also accused of making comments, such as "Jews are good with numbers," "Why didn't you go into your family business?," and "Jews make all the money."

Cutler said did not complain about the comments, fearing retaliation in the small police department.

The Supreme Court ruled that the legal threshold for demonstrating religious discrimination is the same as that for sexual or racial harassment.

"The threshold for demonstrating a religion-based, discriminatory hostile work environment is no more stringent than the threshold that applies to sexually or racially hostile workplace environment claims," the court ruled.

"Here, plaintiff's case satisfied the standards for a hostile work environment claim to warrant, and subsequently uphold, a jury determination."

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at

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