Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Howell pays $50,000 to settle female police officer's gender discrimination suit.

On July 18, 2013, the Township of Howell (Monmouth County) confidentially agreed to pay $50,000 to a former Township police officer who sued that male officers in the department discriminated against her because of her gender.

In her suit, Minelli Torres, who began her career with Howell in 2002, said that she has been "subjected to discriminatory behavior based on her female gender by Lieutenant Andrew Kudrick" since soon after she was hired.  She claims that Kudrick photocopied her paycheck and after she asked that future paychecks be put in sealed envelopes "the pattern of discriminatory and illegal behavior" began. 

She claimed that after being involved in a motor vehicle accident and learning that she was pregnant, she was ordered to patrol Route 9 because she allegedly "was not pulling enough cars over." She claimed that this reassignment made her feel "embarrassed and humiliated in front of her co-workers." 

She verbally brought her concerns to Local PBA President Corporal Guy Arancio° who reported them to police superior officers. She later told Arancio that she didn't wish to pursue the matter but she was later contacted by Captain Jeff Mayfield who demanded that she give a written statement regarding the alleged harassment by Kudrick.  She claimed that she then was served with disciplinary charges "for insubordination and untruthfulness surrounding her allegations of harassment directed at Lieutenant Kudrick."

As part of the settlement, Torres agreed to resign from the Howell Police Department effective June 9, 2010.

The case is captioned Torres v. Howell, Monmouth County Superior Court Docket No. MON-L-1664-09 and Torres's attorney was Frank M. Crivelli of Hamilton.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Torres's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $50,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Howell or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Howell or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Torres $50,000 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.