Monday, November 8, 2010

NHVRHSD pays $302,000 to settle sexual harassment lawsuit

On May 13, 2010, the North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional High School District (NHVRHSD) in Hunterdon County agreed to pay $302,000 to two female school bus drivers who claimed they were sexually harassed by a male bus driver.

In their suit, Bonnie Haydu and Bernice Rude both claimed that after being hired in 2006, they were "almost immediately" sexually harassed by Donald Hockenberry, who also drove a bus for the district. They further alleged that Hockenberry's immediate supervisor, Gerald H. Oram, Human Resources official Ann Marie Rose and other school district managers at knew about but were "intentionally indifferent" to the alleged harassment.

The case is captioned Haydu and Rude v. NHVRHSD, Docket No. HUN-L-133-08 and the womens' attorney was Frank J. Morelli of Phillipsburg. According to the settlement agreement, Haydu received $133,664, Rude received $44,152 and the attorney received $124,184. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Haydu's and Rude's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $302,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by NHVRHSD or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that NHVRHSD or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Haydu and Rude $302,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.