Fired NJ soldier claims he was harassed because of his ethnicity and Muslim faith
A former New Jersey state trooper was harassed by other soldiers because of his Egyptian heritage, discriminated against by his state police superiors because of his Muslim beliefs and wrongfully fired last year after a car accident outside of his working hours, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in state Superior Court in Hackensack.
Former soldier, Ahmed Abdalla, 30, of Woodland Park, said in a 12-page filing that other soldiers regularly subjected him to various racist and discriminatory remarks before he was finally released.
His attorney, Evan L. Goldman, said state police say they fired Abdalla because he didn’t follow protocol when reporting the 2019 crash, a single-car crash that didn’t didn’t involve alcohol.
But other soldiers kept their jobs despite similar or worse offences, Goldman said. And comments Abdalla allegedly endured — such as being called “the terrorist” by other soldiers because of his Muslim beliefs — establish a “clear case of discrimination against this individual,” Goldman said.
“Abdalla was an active state police officer for several years, did his job well, ranked high in the number of arrests he made,” Goldman said. “It seems there would be no other reason to get rid of this guy, who has had an exemplary record during his probationary period.”
Abdalla is suing the state, the New Jersey State Police and several unnamed individuals alleging they violated New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law by not re-enrolling him despite his qualifications.
He also claims that the state police created a hostile work environment due to Abdalla’s religion and ethnicity, and then shielded his harassers from discipline, among other things.
“The defendants’ conduct was extreme and outrageous,” the lawsuit said.
Abdalla seeks compensatory damages, including back wages, benefits, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
Col. Patrick Callahan, the state police superintendent, declined to comment on the ongoing litigation on Wednesday.
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Abdalla’s allegations include a litany of racist comments made by instructors, co-workers and supervisors during his time at the agency, which began when he entered the New Jersey State Police Academy. at Sea Girt in 2017.
In one alleged case, Abdalla’s sergeant at the academy told Abdalla that he only entered the department “because you are brown and Muslim,” the suit said.
“That’s a golden ticket for you,” the sergeant allegedly told him.
After his graduation, other soldiers would call him “the terrorist” when teaming up for night shifts. And when he walked into the barracks, the officers in his squad were playing Indian music, pointing at him and laughing.
His superiors referred him to the training courses he sought, even as he ran his post during arrests and arraignments, the lawsuit said. And he said commanders would force him to work out additional details or post him to undesirable places known for high criminality.
In 2020, Abdalla asked his supervisor for permission to pray at a mosque during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. But he received backlash when NorthJersey.com posted a photo of him on duty – other soldiers said he had been ‘caught’ praying and would likely receive a written reprimand, the lawsuit alleges . The photo was part of a gallery posted to NorthJersey.com in July 2020 showing Muslims marking Eid al-Adha at the Passaic County Islamic Center in Paterson.
The abuse, alienation and feelings of hostility became so pervasive that Abdalla eventually began saying his prayers five times a day in his troop car rather than in the barracks, the lawsuit said.
He was posted to various locations at Washington, Totowa and Bloomfield Barracks.
Eventually, state police fired Abdalla after an Oct. 13, 2019, car crash in which he flipped his BMW in Woodland Park, Goldman said.
Police initially thought Abdalla was drunk, but a breathalyzer found no evidence of alcohol in his system and he was later released, according to the lawyer.
Woodland Park police drove Abdalla home three hours later, around 4 a.m., the lawsuit said.
The next day, Monday, Abdalla informed his supervisor of the accident, arrest and exoneration. But instead of accepting his account, Sergeant d’Abdalla informed the agency’s internal affairs office, which opened an investigation, according to the lawsuit.
Abdalla was eventually charged with failing to notify the division of material information, having an alcohol-related incident outside working hours, making misleading statements and engaging in questionable conduct. .
The Home Affairs Office never issued a final decision or found Abdalla guilty of the charges, the lawsuit said.
Despite this, the state police let him go just as his probation was ending.
“Without warning or notice, on March 11, 2021, plaintiff was advised to report to the station, surrender his weapon and be relieved of his duties,” the lawsuit states.
Steve Janoski covers law enforcement for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from those protecting your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Fired NJ soldier alleges he was harassed because of his race, religion