Terminated Police Officer Files Lawsuit against Borough, Police Dept and Officials
Updated March 8th 7:am: The Bristol Borough Officials named as defendants in the law suit declined to comment for this story.
A former Bristol Borough Police Officer is suing the department, borough, mayor, police chief and borough manager for wrongful termination and retaliation and asking for damages in excess of $50,000, according to court documents filed last month.
Justin Gross says he was wrongfully terminated, harassed, his reputation harmed and humiliated by Borough officials in the suit filed on February 27 by Saffern & Weinberg, attorney Robert Maizel.
Named in suit as defendants are: Chief of Police Steve Henry, Borough Manager James Dillon, Mayor James Saxton, Bristol Borough and the Police Department.
Confidential sources said officials were served with the civil filing Thursday afternoon.
Sgts. Alan Hankinson and Pete Faight are also identified in the filing as harassers of the former police officer in their role as supervisors, court records show.
According to the filing, Gross was terminated late last year by the defendants wrongfully.
Gross was injured on the job in March of 2014 when a Bristol woman, Stephanie McCleary, rammed his marked police cruiser causing a number of injuries to his back and neck, court records show.
Gross was responding to a report of a woman driving recklessly in the borough on Cleveland Street. He pursued her and positioned his patrol vehicle to block her entrance on to the Pennsylvania Turnpike by Green Lane, according to court documents. The now convicted woman, for aggravated assault, rammed his marked cruiser repeatedly.
Gross suffered “traumatic injuries” including but not limited to: a traumatic brain injury, major depression, post traumatic stress disorder, disc herniation, lumbar disc protrusion, caused by the vehicular assault, the suit says.
Gross returned to work in 2017 according to court documents and alleged the work environment to be hostile.
In January of 2019, Sargent’s Faight and Hankinson harassed Gross by:
- Moving his chair back to his old desk, taking his personal items back to his old desk area, unplugging his Ethernet cable so Gross could not access his work computer, throwing trash on his desk, and removing and logging into the officers cell phone.
- Faight, the suit alleges, “tampered with” his “Alexa” device by accessing it and “ordering condoms.”
The complaint also says his personal locked desk drawer was broken into which contained sensitive information which was removed.
Gross reported the alleged “harassment” to Henry.
He alleged someone broke into his personal work desk removing sensitive documents to the police chief in January of 2019. Henry, the complaint says, cut the the officer off during the discussion and compared him “to a f**king sixth grader.”
Gross says these actions by police personnel exacerbated his mental health conditions and intensified his symptoms. He thus was unable to return to work, which was certified by his Physician on January 15 of the same year.
On or about March 14 Dillon sent Gross a memo, telling him he has used all of his leave time as of March 10, 2019 and was placed in a “no-pay” status, the complaint says.
On August 11, Dillon contacted Gross offering him a position in the department as a plain clothes officer in the Borough offices claiming he had been cleared to work by his independent medical examiner (IME) with a return date of August 22, the suit alleges.
The filing claims Dillon was harassing the officer by attempting to isolate him from his fellow officers and not allowing him to have flexible work hours in order to receive necessary treatment for his injuries.
Gross’ IME had not cleared him for a return to work as of yet and documentation was provided to borough officials detailing the alleged work injury violation, the complaint said. Subsequently, Gross filed a Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the officials named in August of last year.
Lower Bucks Source was made aware of the EEOC complaint shortly after it was filed and contacted Maizel for comment about the complaint. Maziel at the time declined to speak on the record and again in September by not returning calls from the publication.
In October, Saxton made a similar return to work offer to Gross without a notice of ability to return to work from IME physicians, the complaint says.
On November 20, according to court documents, Dillon sent Gross a letter stating the borough was terminating him due to a mental disability which affected his ability to work. This was information obtained during Gross’ worker compensation hearings and was used against him illegally, the complaint says.
The suit goes on to further allege the defendants acted unlawfully and in direct contravention of the laws and statutes of the commonwealth and thus seeks relief to that end for Gross, the complaint said. The defendants retaliated against Gross for exercising his rights under the laws of the Workers Compensation Statute and alleged actions directed by the group, the suit says. Gross, has sustained loss of wages and earnings, loss of benefits, loss of future earning power, humiliation, emotional distress and seeks damages from the named defendants, the filing alleges.
Editors Note McCleary, the woman who caused Gross’ original injuries, was cited for probation violations in February of 2019 for non -payment and had 24 months added to her probation sentence. Originally, she was sentenced to 10 to 23 months of confinement, 36 months probation and court costs, according to online court documents.