Saturday, June 18, 2016

Department of Children and Families pays $17,500 to resolve male employee's gender discrimination lawsuit.

On May 13, 2016, the Department of Children and Families (formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services) agreed to pay $17,500 to a male employee who said that less qualified female employees were repeated promoted ahead of him and that the Department's Atlantic County office "systematically promote females to Supervisory Positions over male employees."

In his lawsuit, Lewis Shocket of Egg Harbor Township, who was originally hired by the Department in 2003, claimed to have sought promotion to "Supervising Family Service Specialist 2" but was bypassed several times by sometimes less qualified females. 

Shocket claimed that he "attain[ed] one of the highest scores on the Civil Services Test and one of the highest rankings on the Civil Services Certified List for this position," but that Amy Palm and Cynthia Ginnetti were promoted over him in 2009.  Shocket did not allege that Palm or Ginnetti were less qualified than him.

Shocket said that in 2010, he "received the Civil Services Notification that he was ranked #1 in Atlantic County for the Position of Specialist II."  Yet, Lauren Kisel, Stephanie Schleckser, Jennifer O'Kane, Kelly Grimes and Sharon Oliveri were reportedly promoted instead of him despite having allegedly ranked lower on the Civil Service list.  He said that he more than once served in the supervisor's position temporarily only to be returned to original position.

Named in the suit were Atlantic East Manager Megan McKeever, Atlantic West Manager Michele Stone, as well as other Department officials Linda Dobron, Holly Kane and Charles Jones.

According to a June 15, 2016 response to an OPRA request, "Lewis Shocket holds the title of Supervising Family Service Specialist 2 as of April 19, 2014."  Accordingly, it appears that Shocket was promoted after his lawsuit was filed on March 27, 2014.

The case is captioned Shocket v. State of New Jersey, et al, Docket No. ATL-L-1163-14 and and Shocket's attorney was David R. Castellani of Northfield.  Case documents are on-line here

None of lawsuit's allegations have been proven or disproven in court.  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Paterson or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Shocket $17,500 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.