FREEHOLD, N.J. — A jury has awarded $1.8 million to a former New Jersey police officer who claimed he was discriminated against because of his military service.
Kenneth Hagel filed suit in 2014, claiming Sea Girt Police Chief Kevin Davenport falsely believed he was gay and stymied his promotion to sergeant because he periodically was absent from his job for training and deployment with the U.S. Navy Reserves.
Jurors in Monmouth County found the chief had engaged in anti-military and false sexual orientation discrimination. The panel awarded the 50-year-old $262,800 in compensatory damages for lost salary and benefits, $500,000 in emotional distress damages and $1 million in punitive damages.
The chief told NJ.com he could not comment.
The town’s administrator also declined comment on the verdict.
Reservists' and guardsmen's jobs are protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act but they have to prove they were discriminated against.
According to NJ.com, Hagel’s lawsuit claimed Davenport:
- Created a mock license plate with the words “I’m Gay” and taped it over the rear license plate of Hagel’s car
- Said all Navy guys are gay because “everyone knows what Navy guys are like and do on their ships”
- Called Hagel and other military personnel “pussies” and called Hagel a “handjob” in front of junior officers with the intention of demeaning him
- Unlawfully accessed national law enforcement databases to conduct illegal searches on Hagel
- Told Hagel that Sea Girt would never hire or promote another military person
- Had a Sea Girt police officer confirm that Hagel was really at military drills because he thought Hagel was lying and also had Hagel followed by private investigators
- Cut out photos of Hagel’s face, “drawing a penis going into Mr. Hagel’s mouth and then attaching it to a photo of a scantily clad woman and then placing these photos in different locations in the Sea Girt PD headquarters”
- Told another officer that Hagel was gay and bisexual and having an affair with another male police officer and that the officer was having an affair with Hagel’s wife