In 2018, the Recreation Supervisor of Berkeley Township filed a workplace discrimination claim against Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr., Administrator John Camera, and other Berkeley officials. Debra Reuter’s lawsuit cited numerous incidents of discriminatory and retaliatory actions that she says violated her rights under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). In May of this year, the case was heard by an Ocean County, New Jersey jury, which found she’d proven her case and awarded Ms. Reuter $1.6 million in damages.

Ms. Reuter’s claim named several members of the township administration who she said engaged in a severe and pervasive pattern of mentally abusive and offensive behavior directed at [her] for having a mental disability. It went on to say, “This improper and intentional behavior constitutes discrimination and created an openly hostile work environment.”

Ms. Reuter describes herself as suffering from anxiety, and her workplace discrimination claim was based on this as a protected category. The evidence she presented included a long list of comments and actions to support her legal action.

In support of her case, Ms. Reuter presented numerous examples of direct personal discrimination and retaliatory acts, including having her employee discount for a summer pre-school program removed while other employees continued to have the benefit and being punished for not working a beach concert on her day off by being made to clean an official’s office and closet.

Upon hearing the evidence, the jury agreed that Ms. Reuter had proven that she’d been discriminated against by the township for having a “mental disability” and that the township officials’ conduct had been “severe or pervasive enough to make a reasonable person who has a mental disability believe the working environment was intimidating, hostile, or abusive.” They also agreed that “adverse employment actions” were taken against her for having complained about the discriminatory treatment she’d been subjected to.

Ms. Reuter was awarded compensatory damages of $500,001 for emotional distress and $110,000 for economic loss. She was also awarded $1,000.002 in punitive damages against the town and can apply to have the town compensate her for her legal fees.

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination offers employees in the state some of the most robust protections in the company against discriminatory workplace actions, including harassment and retaliation. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a violation of the NJLAD, our attorneys are here to provide the guidance and representation you need.