A supervisor’s sexual advances drove a New York police officer to take his own life, according to a lawsuit filed by the officer’s widow. The lawsuit names the City of New York, the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and the supervisor as defendants, and alleges that an ongoing pattern of sexual harassment violated the officer’s civil rights.
Officer Matthew Schindler arrived at the 115th Precinct in Queens in March 2011, according to DNAinfo New York. He was assigned as a highway safety officer and reported to Sergeant Christine Hirtzel, also spelled in court documents and some media reports as “Hertzel.” Hirtzel reportedly had direct control over Schindler’s work schedule and duty assignments. She demanded that Schindler engage in sexual relations with her, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that Hirtzel made preferable shift assignments and other features of employment contingent on continued sexual contact, and that she threatened that Schindler “would suffer tangible detriment” if he refused her demands.
The continued demands allegedly caused Schindler to become depressed. On February 13, 2012, Schindler confronted Hirtzel, according to the complaint, to tell her to stop. He told her at that time that “he would kill himself over the ‘guilt,'” according to the New York Post. She allegedly refused to end the relationship, and she allowed Schindler to leave the station. Hirtzel then contacted a precinct captain, who reportedly tried to call Schindler to “rectify his hostile work environment,” and out of concern that he was suicidal. At around 4:30 p.m., Schindler committed suicide with his service weapon.
DNAinfo reported that Hirtzel told NYPD investigators that the affair was consensual. She claimed that he became distraught on February 13 after she tried to break off the relationship. He “stormed off,” she alleged, and then she contacted the precinct captain to admit the affair. The captain then called Schindler, according to Hirtzel’s report.
Gina Schindler, Schindler’s widow, filed suit in Queens Supreme Court on January 22, 2013 against Hirtzel, the NYPD, and the City of New York. The lawsuit alleges that the ongoing sexual harassment, and the hostile work environment that it created, violated Schindler’s civil rights. The plaintiff did not specify an amount of damages. The complaint was not available via the Queens County Supreme Court’s website, so it is not clear which statutes the lawsuit cites in support of its claims. Anti-discrimination laws at the city, state, and federal level prohibit sexual harassment in New York City workplaces.
The New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law prohibit discrimination in employment based on gender and other factors. Sexual harassment, because it typically involves disparate treatment of one or more employees based on sex or gender, is considered a form of unlawful gender discrimination. These laws also prohibit the creation or tolerance of a hostile work environment due to sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. State and federal laws also prohibit public officials from violating a person’s civil rights through any use of their official position.
If you need to speak to a sexual harassment attorney in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group at 973-781-1204 or (646) 867-7997.
More Blog Posts:
Holiday Party Results in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, January 4, 2013
Sexual Harassment Costs New Jersey Millions – Many Offenders Remain on the Job, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 10, 2012
Sexual Harassment at New York’s Columbia University Led to Victim’s Firing, Employment Lawsuit Claims, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 26, 2012