Settlement has been reached in a case against the Cape May County Board of Freeholders in the amount of $775,000. A U.S. district judge has offered his approval, and all outstanding claims, including sanctions, have been settled.
The case involved a former employee's wrongful termination after the youth counselor was terminated after a dozen years' employment with the County. The plaintiff alleged his firing was a direct result of his complaining about his supervisor having ex parte discussions about pending cases with a judge in the Superior Court.
The defendant faced sanctions for dragging its feet on discovery over a two-year period. The plaintiff's attorney said that the order for sanctions "certainly added an incentive for the defendants to settle the case."
The plaintiff cited two 2007 cases where he offered testimony before a Superior Court judge that teens going through problems within their families would be better served living at a youth shelter run by the county. While the judge initially accepted his recommendations, his rulings were later reversed following telephone calls to the judge from the counselor's supervisor.
Although the county claimed that plaintiff's employment was terminated because of lack of funding in the county budget, he alleged that he was only disciplined after complaining about his supervisor's unethical conduct to the administrator for the county and its freeholder board.
The county's stonewalling on discovery for two years led to the imposition of sanctions. The documents included emails between the judge and the supervisor that suggested they were more than work colleagues. They spoke about personal matters that included their children and also made disparaging comments about plaintiff and others. They also discussed the placement of juveniles whose cases were pending. The judge suggested that plaintiff should be reassigned so as not to have to appear before him in court.
Taking a stand against discriminatory employers who retaliate against workers who call them out for unethical acts takes a lot of fortitude. A New Jersey employment law attorney can advise you of your rights and offer guidance and support.
Source: New Jersey Law Journal, "County Sanctioned for Lax Discovery In Worker Suit Settles for $775,000" Charles Toutant, Apr. 30, 2014