Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Pohatcong settles Clerk's unfair pay-cut lawsuit, pays her lawyer $38,000.

On July 23, 2015, the Township of Pohatcong (Warren County) settled a lawsuit in which the Township Clerk alleged that she was improperly forced to work additional hours and give back vacation and holidays with no additional pay.

In her lawsuit, Township Clerk Wanda Kutzman, who earned $79,808 in 2013, complained that the Township Council voted on March 19, 2013 to require her to work an additional five hours per week for no additional pay.  According to the lawsuit, the Council's vote also took away one week of Kutzman's paid vacation and four days from her holiday schedule. 

Kutzman alleged that after she complained about the changes, the Township "began enforcing the provisions of the Pohatcong Personnel Policy manual that were never enforced before" including requiring her to get a doctor's note when she took three sick days off from work.  Her also alleged that she and other female workers were required to coordinate their vacation and lunch schedules to ensure coverage when male employees were not required to do so.  She further claimed that being forced to work extra hours and give back holiday and vacation days was not fair because members of the "Pohatcong Police Department, which consists entirely of men" were given 2% pay raises in 2013 "and there were no give-backs of paid vacation or holiday time or pay."

While not admitting liability, the Township agreed to:

  • Pay Kutzman $2,806.40 for 2013 and 2014 holiday pay;
  • Give her 215 hours of compensation time, valued at $9,245, for the hours she worked in 2013;
  • Provide her with a thirty-five hour work week, twenty-five vacations in 2015 with twenty vacation days in future years.
  • Provide her with the following paid holidays: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King's Birthday, Lincoln's Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Election Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.
  • Pay her lawyer's fees of $38,000.
The case is captioned Kutzman v. Township of Pohatcong, Warren County Superior Court Docket No. WRN-L-273-13 Kutzman's attorney was William J. Courtney of Flemington.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Kutzman's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that Pohatcong admits no wrongdoing.  All that is known for sure is that Pohatcong or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather settle with Kutzman 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.