A female Muttontown police officer is alleging that the department discriminated against her by failing to provide separate bathroom and locker room facilities, and not giving her a private area to pump breast milk.
In a notice of claim emailed to the North Shore village on Sunday, Jennifer Lavin asks for $35 million in damages. The notice, a precursor to a lawsuit against a municipality, alleges violations of federal and state civil-rights and human-rights laws.
Lavin also filed a complaint with the state Division of Human Rights alleging discrimination on the basis of sex and race, and a “hostile work environment.”
Mayor Julianne Beckerman said in an email Wednesday that “the discrimination allegations cited in Officer Lavin’s legal papers were never raised nor reported to the Village before her Notice of Claim was received by the Village Clerk on Monday.”
Beckerman said the assertions that there are no facilities for women nor an area to pump breast milk “are false.”
Lavin had served with the NYPD before she began working with the Muttontown police in May 2011, shortly after the now-11-member department was created.
Lavin, who is black, alleges she faced racial as well as gender-based discrimination. The notice states that “during a heated discussion about the unarmed shootings of African-Americans” in 2014, the president of the Muttontown police union, Officer Jason Lodico, who is white, made a racist comment.
Roger Weber, the Farmingdale-based attorney for the Police Benevolent Association, denied Lodico made such a comment. “Nobody in their right mind would make such a statement. It just didn’t happen,” he said.
Lavin’s attorney, Manhattan-based Eric Sanders, said Wednesday that she was the only woman on the Muttontown force and the department had not provided her with a gun sized for her hands or a bulletproof vest designed for a woman’s body, putting her in danger.
The complaint states that in November 2015, Lavin suffered head, face, abdomen, back and hip injuries while attempting to restrain “a person in distress.” But, she alleged, Police Chief Phil Pulaski told her that “because of your ‘pre-existing condition,’” Lavin should not apply for workers’ compensation benefits. At the time, Lavin was pregnant.
The state workers’ compensation board determined Lavin did suffer a work-related injury, according to an October 2016 state Supreme Court decision out of Nassau determining that Lavin is eligible for benefits. Weber said the PBA represented Lavin but the village is appealing the ruling.
With Gary Dymski