Lawsuit: NJ cop who worked as EMT during pandemic was forced out of police job
Fort Lee EMT and former Harding Township Police Officer Thomas Trommelen said he was pressured to quit his EMS job and ultimately fired from the police department, despite being allowed to work in EMS previously
Anthony G. Attrino
MORRIS COUNTY, N.J. — A former cop in Morris County has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the police department, alleging he was forced out of his job when he took a job as an EMT in Bergen County during the coronavirus pandemic.
Thomas Trommelen, 27, of Clifton, claims in court papers he worked for a time at both the Harding Township Police Department and as a Little Falls EMT. In January, resigned his Little Falls job when Fort Lee offered him work as an EMT.
Until that time, Trommelen had worked both as an EMT in Little Falls and as a police officer in Harding Township without incident, states the suit, which was filed this month in Superior Court of Morris County.
Additionally, his supervisors at the police department were well aware he had another job as an EMS, the lawsuit claims.
Before taking the job at Fort Lee EMS, Trommelen claims he told supervisors in the police department aware of the job offer in Bergen County. He says he heard nothing in response for many weeks.
Then in April, Trommelen claims he was told that he had not been approved “to work secondary employment job with Fort Lee EMS,” the lawsuit states.
“(The denial) was based on an irrational fear that assisting the public during the COVID-19 health crisis was an improper activity for plaintiff to engage in,” the lawsuit states.
When he worked his first shift in Fort Lee anyway, his supervisors at Harding PD served him with a Rice notice, which is required before a public entity meets to discuss an employee’s termination.
Trommelen claims he contacted Harding Police Chief Erik Heller about the notice and that Heller told him he needed to resign from Fort Lee EMS within hours or Harding Township would seek his termination.
On April 13, “under severe duress,” and concern about what being fired would mean for his future, Trommelen resigned from the Harding Township Police Department, the suit states.
The lawsuit claims the police department retaliated against him for objecting to their demands that his quit his EMS job and foe informing supervisors that they were in violation of public policy. Trommelen also claims discrimination and disparate treatment because he wanted to work another job during the coronavirus crisis.
The suit seeks punitive and compensatory damages to recover lost pay and benefits, along with lost retirement money.
Neither Heller or other Harding Township officials immediately responded Friday morning to requests for comment on the suit.
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