Monday, February 3, 2014

Bayonne pays $10,000 to settle DPW workers' racial discrimination suit.

On or about November 14, 2013, the City of Bayonne (Hudson County) agreed to pay a total of $10,000 to four Bayonne Department of Public Works employees  who sued the City for racial discrimination.

In their suit, Lorenzo Alyon, Christian Booker, Donald Jacobson, Keith Moore, Kyron Turner, Randy Williams and Christopher Wright claimed that they were hired as "seasonal employees" but had worked for more than 90 days which automatically entitled them to "permanent employee" status.  They claimed that "Caucasian 'seasonal' employees were transferred to permanent employment status" while they "as well as other similarly situated persons of protected racial classes, were held in permanent 'seasonal' classification."  They also claimed to have endured racial slurs and other discriminatory treatment.  Of the seven defendants, only Donald Jacobson, Keith Moore, Kyron Turner, and Christopher Wright entered into the settlement agreement.

Also named in the suit were Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria and Business Administrator Terrance Malloy.

The case is captioned Alyon et al v. Bayonne, Federal Case No. 2:10-cv-01750 and the plaintiffs' attorneys were Karen DeSoto of Bayonne and Brian F. Curley of Morristown.  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 the plaintiffs' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $10,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Bayonne or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Bayonne or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the plaintiffs $10,000 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.