Former Edison police officer said she was wrongfully fired after reporting harassment

EDISON – A former police officer is suing the Edison Police Department, alleging she was wrongfully fired after she reported she and her husband had been harassed by some of her fellow officers.

Valerie Mader joined the Edison Police Department in December 2014. Previously she had served as a Rutgers University police officer for nine years, rising to the rank of detective sergeant. She graduated from the police academy in March 2006.

Through her attorney Theodore Campbell, New Brunswick, she, along with her husband, Jason Mader, named the Edison Police Department, Police Chief Thomas Bryan, Police Lt. Kenneth Schreck, who serves in the department’s internal (IA) unit, the Institute for Forensic Psychology, and the Comprehensive Psychological Services in the 19-page lawsuit filed in Middlesex County Superior Court on May 1.

Mader said the acts of her superior officers and the independent contracted doctors for the township who treated her “constitute unlawful retaliation and gender discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.”

In the lawsuit, Mader describes several occasions of the alleged harassment.

She allegedly witnessed inappropriate behavior from a fellow officer when he drew a picture depicting a private part after they responded to a criminal mischief complaint. She was just two months on the job and field training with another officer.

She said she “thought it was an unusual act to engage in for an officer, but being
newly hired, she chose to brush it off and proceed as if it had not occurred.”

On or about the first week of February 2015, she was home with her fiancé, now husband, when she reportedly received a text message from her training officer stating another officer wanted her phone number to ask her a question. Mader said she found it strange, since the officer was a delegate for the department’s Police Benevolent Association and had her phone number. However, again being newly hired, attempting to fit in, she said she gave her training officer the “OK” to give out her number.

Since she gave out her number, Mader said her fiancé had received frequent text messages, which became more and more offensive and disturbing. The messages, which also included phone messages, repeatedly notified him of her whereabouts, told him which male co-workers she was with, and taunted him with false allegations of her sexual involvement with those men, the lawsuit stated.

In addition, on several occasions two members of the department allegedly followed Mader, while she was on duty, and parked their patrol car in position to watch her and Jason while they stood and talked at their vehicles. Mader began to feel she was being stalked by men in her department, according to the lawsuit.

Mader also received a typed letter at their home in the mailbox, with no postmark, accusing Mader “of sleeping her way up the ladder.”

On Jan. 26, 2016, the couple had reportedly arranged a meeting with Bryan to discuss the harassment. On the same day, they submitted a typed factual account on the Department Inter-Office Correspondence “IOC” form, according to the lawsuit.

The matter was turned over to Internal Affairs for an investigation on Feb. 1, 2016.

In addition to the IOC form, the two turned over the sexually offensive letter received at their home, and Jason Mader’s phone records, but not their physical phones, for forensic examination because none of the texts remained on either of their phones and they had concerns about their privacy, the lawsuit said.

By June/July 2016, Mader said she and her fiance’s interaction with the IA investigator had soured. The IA investigators seemed increasingly more focused on diverting attention away from the Edison Police Department and months went by thereafter with no word on the status of the investigation, the lawsuit said.

On April 4, 2017, Mader said she was informed the investigation had been completed and she was somewhat relieved; however, once she entered into a meeting to discuss the findings, she was shocked and confused, the lawsuit said.

From the inception, the set-up of the meeting was intimidating and retaliatory. There were four people present on behalf of the township, all were supervisory males and only two of whom had any involvement in the investigation, the lawsuit said.

At the meeting, Bryan allegedly informed Mader the investigation was closed and handed her a memo, which stated “The investigation revealed that no evidence existed and/or was provided to investigators to support the allegations.”

On April 13, 2017, Edison sent Mader to its examining psychologist, Lewis Z. Schlosser, Ph.D, an agent/employer of the Institute for Forensic Psychology. He conducted a fitness for duty assessment as an independent contractor for the Township of Edison.

Mader said in the course of the examination, Schlosser bullied her to the point that he made her cry, the lawsuit said.

On May 2, 2017, Bryan informed Mader, Schlosser had found her “psychologically unfit for duty,” and placed her on forced medical leave. He handed her an application for short-term disability leave and instructed her to complete it and a two-page summary of recommendations for treatment.

Mader saw two psychiatrists as recommended as well as her own treating therapist. None of the three were willing to opine that she was disabled, the lawsuit said.

On Jan. 9, 2018, Mader was sent for a psychological re-evaluation with Betty McLendon, Psy.D, an agent/employee of Comprehensive Psychological Services. McLendon conducted a follow-up fitness for duty assessment as an independent contractor for the Township of Edison.

McLendon’s examination was similar to Schlosser’s examination. During the examination McLendon’s questioning was accusatory, blaming Mader for her own predicament by not retaining evidence and separating herself from the fellow police officers, strongly implying that the harassment is fabricated, the lawsuit said.

In May 2018, Bryan sent a notice informing Mader her employment as an Edison police officer was being terminated primarily on the charges of conduct unbecoming a police officer.

As a result of the actions of her superior officers and the doctors who treated her, Mader said she has suffered emotional, physical, and psychological harm, and interference with
employment, both now and in the future.

Mader and her husband demand compensatory damages, including lost wages and reinstatement to her position as an Edison police officer, adjustment of her employment records, benefits, punitive damages, together with interest, attorney fees, cost of suit, and any other further relief the court deems equitable and just.

Township officials said the township attorney and the police chief do not comment about pending litigation.