A police sergeant has sued the borough of Haledon, N.J., and several officials, claiming he was
passed over for promotion because he is gay. Sgt. James Len filed suit Wednesday in state superior court against the borough, Mayor Ken Pengitore, councilman Ayman Mamkej, and police chief Harold Engold Jr. All three defendants said they had not seen the suit and declined to comment.
Len is seeking punitive and compensatory damages, claiming he was subjected to a hostile work environment because of his sexual orientation. He claims officers rigged the evaluation process to prevent him from being promoted to lieutenant. He also says fellow officers harassed him and made antigay comments. Len claims he asked police officials to investigate his allegations of harassment but was refused and that disciplinary charges filed against him last year were fabricated to discriminate against him because he is gay.
According to the suit, Len, 42, told his wife and children in April 2002 that he is gay. He moved out two months later. As word circulated through the police department, others began treating Len differently, according to his lawyer, Charles Sciarra. "He was in line for promotions and was on the short list for the chief of police," Sciarra said. "Len went from favorite son to pariah instantaneously. They did not just ostracize Jim; they targeted his job solely because it was revealed he is gay."
The suit claims several officials assured Len he would be promoted to lieutenant but withdrew their support after learning he was gay.