The West New York Police Department and Police Director Robert Antolos have just over a week to respond to a lawsuit filed by an openly gay town police officer alleging he suffered discrimination on the job due to his sexual orientation.
Officer “Michael (Acosta) is the first openly gay member of the department and he has been the victim, due to his sexual orientation, of constant threats and intimidation,” said attorney Gerald Resnick, who is representing Acosta.
Resnick continued: “Such discriminatory attitude on the basis of sexual preferences are not tolerated in New Jersey and especially forbidden by the New Jersey laws against discrimination.”
West New York spokesman Pablo Fonseca said: “This is a matter of litigation so we have no comment, but under the police direction and leaders under (Antolos’) tenure, crime has dropped in West New York by 18.5 percent. Mayor (Felix) Roque continues to thank the police department for doing a great job for the residents of West New York.”
The suit says “It has been well known by members of the WNYPD and Antolos that Acosta is gay, lives with a partner,” and is “the only openly gay police officer in the WNYPD.”
Among the allegations in the suit is that Antolos showed Acosta “his tattoos (one of which is a skull with two lightning bolts) and his lightning bolt key chain in an attempt to intimidate Acosta. It says Antolos stated that the “police department will no longer be run by one patrolman,” while “staring at plaintiff in an effeminate manner.
Acosta claims he was not provided overtime shifts that were available to other officers, he was singled out for filing internal affairs charges against Antolos and that the director “filed baseless internal affairs charges” against him.
The lawsuit states that as a result of the defendants’ “wrongful actions, plaintiff has suffered severe emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of income, loss of benefits and other severe financial losses.”
The lawsuit does not state a dollar amount being sought, but it demands compensatory damages, damages for emotions distress, punitive damages, pay for missed overtime and other damages the court deems just.
In 2012 Acosta was suspended for 30 days after admitting to conduct unbecoming of a public employee, neglect of duty, misuse of public property, including motor vehicles, and violation of the department’s rules and regulations.
The internal affairs charges were filed after Acosta conducted "full-disclosure" checks 16 times from March 25, 2010 to July 30, 2010 -- one of which occurred just hours after Internal Affairs officers interviewed the man whose information was accessed, documents revealed.The man’s identity was not disclosed.
The defendants must file a response to the lawsuit by Sept. 18, Resnick said.