Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hudson Sheriff's Department pays $180,000 to settle employee's whistleblower and discrimination suit

On August 2, 2013, the County of Hudson, on behalf of the Hudson County Sheriff's Department agreed to pay $180,000 to 56-year-old female Sheriff's Officer who has been employed by the Department since 1985.

In her suit, Rosemary Frank said that her superiors harassed, retaliated and discriminated against her due to her settling a separate lawsuit in the mid-1990's in which she claimed that he was sexually harassed in the workplace.  She claimed that after she was prevented from becoming a sergeant, she was told by a lieutenant that "she would never be promoted because of her previous lawsuit."  Frank also claimed that despite having seniority, she was forced to take the night shift by Lieutenant Gary Reibesell who allegedly threatened her with a transfer if she refused to take the shift.

She made several other allegations of discriminatory treatment at the hands of Reibesell "which resulted in her hospitalization due to the stress of the situation."  She also said that a Sergeant Webber, while leading a hostile work environment training seminar encouraged an officer to read a passage aloud from the manual "in a manner that mocked gay people."

The case is captioned Frank v. Hudson, Docket No. HUD-L-539-10 and Frank's attorney was Charles J. Sciarra of Clifton.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Frank's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $180,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Hudson or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Hudson or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Frank $180,000 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.