Wednesday, May 24, 2017

ACUA confidentially paid out $70,000 to resolve racial discrimination lawsuit that alleged break room segregation, nooses, a swastika tattoo and Confederate flags.

On June 23, 2016, the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) agreed to pay $70,000 to a Puerto Rican male employee who said that he was subjected to pervasive discrimination because of his race.  This is the second recent discrimination case against the ACUA that resulted in a settlement--Scott Henry's lawsuit settled for $97,500 on May 20, 2016.

In his complaint, Angel Rodriguez said that he was told when he was hired that the ACUA is "a little bit racist."  While working there, he allegedly experienced white workers receiving preferential treatment, two incidents where nooses were found in his and another minority worker's vehicles and white employees openly displaying Confederate flags on their personal vehicles.  He also alleged that one employee "display[ed] a tattoo of a swastika that is visible while in his ACUA uniform" and that he witnessed a conversation disparaging Mexican immigrants who "are always warming up their rice and beans."  An October 25, 2014 Press of Atlantic City article reported on both lawsuits.

Personally named as defendants in the lawsuit were ACUA President Richard Dovey and Rodriguez's direct supervisor Michael Burton.

The case is captioned Rodriguez v. Atlantic County Utilities Authority, Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-2239-15 and Rodriguez's attorney was Lisa R. Marone of Cherry Hill.  Case documents are on-line here. Although the matter settled on June 23, 2016, the court was not notified of the settlement until March 13, 2017.

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 Rodriguez'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 the ACUA or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Rodriguez $70,000 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.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bridgeton confidentially paid out $90,000 to resolve part-time EMT's discrimination lawsuit.

On March 24, 2017, the City of Bridgeton (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $90,000 to a part-time Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who said that he was discriminated against and ultimately placed on the "do not call" list because his supervisors and co-workers "perceived [him] to be a homosexual male."

In his complaint, Donald Hymer, Jr. claimed to have been unlawfully fired from his part-time EMT position on May 29, 2015 and to have been discriminated against "because of his perceived sexual orientation."  He said that he was passed over for a permanent EMT job even though he had more seniority than any of the other interviewees. 

When he attended a March 3, 2015 interview for a full-time EMT position, Hymer said that he was ridiculed by his supervisor Tiffany Durham who heads the EMT unit for the Bridgeton Fire Department.  According to the complaint, Durham said to him, in the presence of the Bridgeton Fire Chief and other officers, "You need to watch who you hang out with! I saw pictures of you and [male friend] spooning on Facebook!"  Durham's quip allegedly caused the other interviewers "to laugh loudly at Mr. Hymer."

Hymer claimed to have been routinely called "faggot" and subjected to being mocked on social media by his coworkers.  He said that his schedule was changed to prevent him from working any more shifts and was placed on the "do not call" list.

The case is captioned Hymer v. City of Bridgeton, et al, Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-570-15 and Hymer's attorney was Zachary R. Wall of Haddonfield.  Case documents are on-line here.  As a condition for settlement, Hymer also agreed to resign as an EMT.

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 Hymer'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 Bridgeton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Hymer $90,000 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.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

ACUA confidentially paid out $97,500 to resolve racial discrimination lawsuit that alleged nooses and Confederate flags.

On May 20, 2016, the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) agreed to pay $97,500 to an African-American male employee who said that two Caucasian co-workers "displayed Confederate flags in their vehicles" and that he found "a noose hanging from a chair in his work truck" in June 2015.  Although the matter settled on May 20, 2016, the court was not notified of the settlement until February 10, 2017.

In his complaint, Scott Henry said that his was the second time a noose had been left in the truck of an African-American worker.  According to the lawsuit, "the noose, used in spectacle lynching of African-Americans by white mobs in the years following the Civil War and well into the 20th Century, has become a powerful symbol of oppression and racism."  He claimed that management did not effectively address the matter and only briefly told employees "to stop joking around."

Henry claimed that the day after he found the noose in his truck a Caucasian employee asked him "How's it hanging?"  The lawsuit claims that the comment was "a clear reference to the noose."

An October 25, 2014 Press of Atlantic City article reports that few months after Henry's suit was filed another lawsuit was filed against the ACLU that complained about the noose and  Confederate flags as well as a swastika and "derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants 'heating up their rice and beans.'"

The case is captioned Henry v. Atlantic County Utilities Authority, Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-1872-15 and Henry's attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel.  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 Henry'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 the ACUA or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Henry $97,500 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.