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.