A Superior Court judge has just ordered Jackson Township Mayor Mike Reina to sit down for a deposition in response to a lawsuit filed by a former employee of the Township.

The judge formally issued this order after the former employee asserted that Reina has been dodging numerous attempts to get him to sit down for a deposition.

Back in March 2021, Fred Rasiewicz, the Township's former Director of Public Works, filed a lawsuit against the Township.

According to his Complaint:

He was terminated on May 1, 2020, at the age of 72.

Previously, in 2015, he legally pursued forming a local management union to represent management employees of the Township. Township officials including Mayor Reina actively opposed these efforts.

The formation of the union was successful and Rasiewicz was elected president, a position which he held until his employment was terminated.

As president of the union, he engaged in various union activities, including representing various employees in labor management issues, including filing grievances, negotiation of various employee and labor disputes, and opposing policies created by the Township which he believed in good faith to be a violation of the law of public policy and/or Township ordinance.

As a result of him engaging in these lawful activities, Township officials began to engage in a pattern of unlawful harassment against him.

These actions were unlawful and created a harassing and hostile work environment.

The unlawful and harassing conduct was directed at Rasiewicz in retaliation for him performing his responsibilities as Union President, and in retaliation of him opposing unlawful employment practices on the part of the Township officials.

Additionally, the unlawful and harassing conduct was directed at him due to his age.

In March 2020, Rasiewicz was advised that he was to be terminated from his position.

Edison Attorney Steven D. Cahn Esq. has filed a 4 count complaint against the Township, Mayor Reina and the Township Manager.

The first count alleges that the termination of his employment, which is an essential position, was unlawful and a violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).

The second count alleges that the retaliation against Rasiewicz's legal union activities, and his subsequent termination, was a violation of the clear mandate of public policy.

The third count alleges that the termination was due to his age and this is a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).

The fourth count alleges that Mayor Reina met and conspired with other officials to plan, aid, abet, and/or encourage participation in the unlawful retaliatory and discriminatory conduct directed at Rasiewicz, in violation of both the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

The suit contends that the unlawful harassment and termination has caused Rasiewicz to suffer damages including severe physical and emotional distress, economic damages including lost wages, benefits, and severe emotional trauma and anxiety caused by the uncertainty of his employment situation, family, and social disruption as well as other personal injuries.

The lawsuit seeks judgement a) ordering the defendants to reinstate Rasiewicz with full back pay and benefits, b) compensatory damages, c) punitive damages, d) damages including personal hardship, economic loss, physical and emotional stress, severe emotional trauma and anxiety caused by the uncertainty of this employment controversy, family and social disruption and other personal injuries, e) costs and attorney's fees, f) an order declaring that the defendants have violated of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, and requiring them to take appropriate corrective action to end discrimination in the work place, and g) for any other relief as the Court may deem equitable and just.

On July 12, 2021, Ocean County Superior Court Judge James Den Uyl denied the Township's motion to dismiss, which was based on that the Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (Judge Uyl pointed out that the lawsuit clearly states a claim that "plaintiff as the Union President engaged in various union activities and specifically "opposed various employment
practices on the part of the defendants including but not limited to opposing policies created by the defendants that the plaintiff believed in good faith were unlawful and/or a violation of law, public policy or ordinances of the Township of Jackson. " Plaintiff further states that as a direct result of engaging in "good faith opposition to unlawful
employment activities on the part of the Township," he was retaliated against. This retaliation included ultimately the plaintiff’s termination on May 1, 2020. Judge Uyl also dismissed the Township's arguments that the Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies, saying that was not required for a CEPA allegation; and that the claims are time barred, as they were timely filed with one year of the termination of employment.

Since the time of the denial of the motion to dismiss, the litigation has continued with mediation sessions.

Additionally, on numerous occasions, the Plaintiff's attorney has attempted to schedule a deposition of Mayor Reina.

However, to date, Reina has dodged all such attempts. As such, as previously reported here on FAA News, the Plaintiff's attorney has filed a Motion to Compel Deposition.

"We are filing this motion due to the difficulty in scheduling the deposition of Mayor Reina. The deposition was originally scheduled for November 14, 2022, May 18, June 1, and June 19, 2023. Each time, the deposition was adjourned by Reina. It is imperative to have the opportunity to question Reina under oath. There are questions with respect to this case that only Reina can answer. The continued delay in his deposition is preventing the Plaintiff from completing discovery, including the opportunity to request any follow up documents that may be  discovered during the course of Reina's deposition. It is for these reasons that it is critical to schedule and complete this deposition as soon as possible," Mr. Cahn wrote.

The motion sought for an order that the deposition of Reina shall go forward on July 13.

Township Attorney Kevin B. Riordan Esq. filed Opposition to the motion, noting that the delay in scheduling a deposition was due to the fact that Mayor Reina's father recently passed away.

"Once the Mayor returns from bereavement leave, we will be able to reschedule his deposition. Our office has very limited availability in July to complete depositions in this matter as older cases are being given priority. August will be limited as well due to vacation schedules. As such, it is respectfully requested that the discovery in this matter be extended to the end of 2023 to allow for the orderly preparation of this, together with the older matters we are handling. For all of the foregoing reasons, it is respectfully requested that Plaintiff’s Motion be denied," Mr. Riordan wrote.

Judge Den Uyl was not persuaded by the Township's opposition, and granted the motion, ordering that the deposition dates for all party and fact witnesses shall be agreed upon by counsel within 10 days and all depositions completed by September 15, 2023.

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