Long Branch Housing Authority settles worker discrimination case for $25K
Former Long Branch Public Housing Authority security guard Rosella Coleman reaches terms with the agency to settle race discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation allegations.
The Authority denies discrimination accusations in the agrreement, but is required to update its anti-discrimination policies, create an alternate method for reporting discrimination if the allegations concern a supervisor, and brief all workers, managers, supervisors and agents of New Jersey's anti-discrimination laws, according to the office of state Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino..
Coleman, an African-American who was assigned to Kennedy Towers, complained to the state Division on Civil Rights that her supevisor, also African-American, repeatedly addressed her with a racial slur, and that one resident witnessed it. The Division's probable cause finding in November 2016 cited witnesses who corroborated the slur allegations.
Coleman also alleged that he sexually harassed her, including lewd phone calls and an offer to clear her schedule in order to travel with him to Atlantic City. She told state authorities that after reporting the behavior to upper management in the Authority, she was placed on 90-day probation on a claim of excessive absenteeism, which she interpreted as retaliation.
Division investigators learned that another worker with a comparable absentee rate was not placed on probation, but instead given a warning and placed on "strict monitoring."
Coleman alleged more retailiation after she filed her complaint with the Division on Civil Rights in April 2013, detailing a meeting she requested with the site manager, her security supervisor and an Authority board member when a known drug dealer she reported to upper management approached her. The meeting never took place, authorities said. Fearing her safety, and her family's Coleman resigned a week later, with no employment prospects.
"This is an important settlement, because it serves as a reminder that public agencies are no different than private sector employers when it comes to their legal obligation to protect workers and treat them fairly," Porrino said in prepared comments.
"Public agencies have the same duty - and perhaps even a higher calling -- to ensure a harassment-free workplace, and those who fail to do so will be held accountable."
"This agreement addressed the Housing Authority's conduct both as an employer and a housing provider," said Director Craig Sashihara.
"Although Ms. Coleman filed a complaint for employment discrimination, our investigation found that tenants may have been subjected to harassment, too. So the settlement addresses the Housing Authority's employment and housing policies and practices, and monitors its compliance on both fronts."
There is nothing in the body of information issued regarding the case that identifies the supervisor involved, or outlines any possible disciplinary actions.