Bridgeton, NJ – A former Millville police captain has filed a lawsuit alleging that the city forced him to retire in 2018 because he exercised his rights under the New Jersey Family Leave Act (FMLA) to take care of his ailing mother.
Former Millville Police Captain Harrison “Harry” Cranmer, a 25-year law enforcement veteran, is seeking reinstatement to his prior position, as well as punitive and compensatory damages, the Daily Journal reported.
Millville Police Chief Jody Farabella and the City of Millville are both named in the Cumberland County Superior Court lawsuit, and additional defendants may be added.
According to the lawsuit, the veteran officer was promoted to the rank of captain less than a year before his mother fell “severely ill and was hospitalized,” the Star-Ledger reported.
He had stored up nine months of sick leave, applied for leave under the FMLA, and told Chief Farabella about the situation.
“Defendant Farabella was immediately hostile to plaintiff’s request for leave under the NJFLA and told plaintiff he did not want him to go out on leave because it would be disruptive to Farabella’s ‘plans,’” the lawsuit stated, according to the Daily Journal.
The captain began his medical leave on Feb. 1, 2018, but Chief Farabella called him into his office later that month.
During the meeting, the chief told Cpt. Cranmer that his position was only a one-year provisional advancement, and that it was set to expire on March 20, 2018.
It was the first time the captain was ever told that his promotion might not be permanent, the lawsuit claimed.
The chief noted that “he needed guys showing up for work,” at which point Cpt. Cranmer realized that he would likely be demoted for exercising his FMLA rights.
Within days, the Millville City Commission voted to cut the number of captain positions at the Millville Police Department (MPD) from two to one.
The former captain alleged that the city eliminated his position as punishment for his absence, but city officials said they did it in order to hire more officers, according to the lawsuit.
James Birchmeier, who is representing the city, said that city officials “relied on legitimate non-discriminatory factors” when they voted to do away with the second police captain position, and denied that the city took “any type of adverse employment action” against the former captain, the Daily Journal reported.
With his position eliminated, Cpt. Cranmer was scheduled to be demoted back to the rank of lieutenant, the Star-Ledger reported.
But days before that demotion occurred, the captain filed for retirement in order to retain his $117,000 captain’s salary.
Just a week later, he tried to rescind his retirement “because he realized he was not ready and wanted to continue serving the community,” but the city refused his request.
Cpt. Cranmer’s 25-year law enforcement career ended on June 1, 2018.
The former captain has requested a jury trial in an effort to get his job back, The Press of Atlantic City reported.