Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ocean pays $51,000 plus lawyer fees to resolve pregnant policewoman's discrimination suit.

On October 30, 2015, the Township of Ocean (Monmouth County) agreed to have a $51,000 judgment entered against it in order to resolve a female police officer's discrimination lawsuit.  In addition to the $51,000, the Township also agreed to pay the officer's lawyer's fees in an amount to be determined by the court.

In her suit, Kathleen J. Delanoy, who has been in the Ocean Township Police Department's employ since 2003, claimed that the department and former Chief Antonio V. Amodio discriminated against her after learning of her pregnancy in July 2011.

According to the complaint, until Delanoy's pregnancy, an "unwritten policy" allowed officers "who were unable to perform their full-time assignments due to illness or non-work related injury were allowed to work light/modified duty" without having to use their accumulated sick, vacation and personal days.  Delanoy, after advising the department of her pregnancy, claimed that she was informed "that there is no light/modified duty available for pregnant officers."

She further claimed that immediately after she reported her pregnancy, the department adopted written policies that discriminated against pregnant officers.  Specifically, the lawsuit states that the policies give the police chief discretion to relieve officers who are unable to perform their full-time duties for reasons other than pregnancy from having to use their accumulated days before being put on light duty. Delanoy claimed that no such discretion is contained in the department's maternity policy.  She also claimed that she had been "ostracized by co-workers and supervisors."

This case was resolved by an "offer of judgment" being made by the Township and accepted by Delanoy.  The amount of attorney fees that Delanoy will receive is currently pending before the court.

The case is captioned Delanoy v. Township of Ocean, et al, Federal Case No. 3:13-cv-01555 and Delanoy's attorney was Donald F. Burke of Brick.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Delanoy's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The fact that an offer of judgment, rather than a settlement agreement,resolved this case suggests an admission by Ocean Township that the lawsuit's allegations were meritorious. All that is known for sure is that Ocean or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Delanoy $51,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision 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 resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.