Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Deptford pays $25,000 to settle EMT's sex discrimination suit

On May 6, 2014, the Township of Deptford (Gloucester County) agreed to pay $25,000 to an Emergency Medical Technician who claimed that the Township's EMT chief made unwelcome sexual advances toward her.  She also claimed that Deptford's attorney, who also serves as Deputy Director of the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders, pressured her into resigning.

In her suit, Dawn Law, who worked as a Deptford EMT since 2000, claimed that EMT Deputy Chief David Snyder sent her a text message on October 2, 2012 "propositioning her to engage in a sexual relationship."  Law claimed that the invitation was "unanticipated, unwelcome and unappreciated."  Snyder then allegedly tried to meet with Law for a matter not related to work.

Thereafter, Law claimed she was afraid that she might be forced to work shifts alone with Snyder.  After reporting Snyder's advances to Chief Tom Newman, Snyder was allegedly given a choice between resigning immediately or being suspended pending an investigation.

Then, a few days later, Law was ordered to meet with Deptford Township Solicitor Doug Long.  According to the complaint, Long told Law that "he had conducted a preliminary investigation and decided that the relationship between plaintiff and Mr. Snyder was consensual."  Long allegedly then gave Law a choice between resigning and receiving a check for unpaid sick and vacation time or to "fight Mr. Long and be suspended for 30 days and then terminated."  Law claims that neither she nor her partner, Paul Reyes, were interviewed during Long's alleged investigation.  After declining Long's offer to resign, Law claims that she was suspended from duty from October 25, 2012 to November 19, 2012.

The case is captioned Law v. Township of Deptford, Docket No. GLO-L-1890-12 and Law's attorney was Kevin Costello of Mount Laurel.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Law's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $25,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Deptford or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Deptford or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Law $25,000 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.