Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hillside school board pays $100,000 to settle reverse discrimination suit.

On August 21, 2014, the Hillside Board of Education (Union County) agreed to pay $100,000 to its former security chief who sued the Board, Superintendent Thomas M. Kane and Business Administrator Kenneth R. Weinheimer and all the individual Board members claiming that he was fired because he is a white male.

In his suit, John Young, who supervised sixteen school security officers, "15 of them [who] were non-white," said that he was told during a meeting by Zende Clark, the District's Head of Secondary Education, that "the security officers, most of whom were young African American males, were not comfortable with having a white boss, let alone a white boss who had prior law enforcement experience."

Young claimed that school officials didn't support him but instead caved to "officers and employee(s) [who had] voiced complaints about the Young, which were not based upon fact, but instead, they were based upon race with the intent of trying to get [school officials] to terminate [Young] because he is white."

Young said that he was ultimately terminated from his position on June 30, 2011 and was replaced by "a Non-White person, who is believed to be African-American."

The case is captioned Young v. Hillside Board of Education, et al, Union County Superior Court Docket No. UNN-L-1275-13 and Young's attorney was Phillip B. Linder of Edison.  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 Young's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $100,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Hillside or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Hillside or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Young $100,000 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.