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Default judgement has just been entered against Jackson Township after the Township failed to respond to a civil lawsuit by a former Public Works supervisor, alleging he was harassed into retirement due to his age, FAA News has learned.

According to the complaint, which was filed in New Jersey Superior Court in Ocean County:

Robert Stauffer Sr. was hired in January 2016 as the supervisor of Public Works. The position was permanent.

Stauffer was in charge of the department and had 35 people reporting under him. There was no superintendent at the time, as that was a vacant position so he was performing much of those duties as well.

In May of 2022 Sean Thomas was hired to fill the superintendent position. He was Stauffer's direct supervisor. 

Stauffer was told that because they hired a Superintendent, who would also be running the department, he would no longer be solely responsible for running the department, and his pay would be cut by $7,000. No other explanation was given for this; however, he suspected that, due to his age, they were trying to cut back on what he was earning.

During the first week of Mr. Thomas's employment, he began to display very hostile behavior towards Stauffer. Whenever he spoke with him, he immediately began to comment about how old he was, whenever he spoke with him. He would yell and scream at him in front of his staff and others. He would constantly state that if Stauffer would do his job he would not have to be here.

Mr. Thomas yelled at Stauffer everyday and constantly said ‘when are you going to retire,' he said “I will take care of you." From then on Mr. Thomas began to blame Stauffer for everything. No matter what Stauffer said, Mr. Thomas would reply, “you are lying;" he refused to listen to anything at all causing Stauffer to doubt himself. He consistently would follow these statements with ‘when are you retiring?” etc. Whenever there was a an issue with anything he would blame Stauffer. 

Mr. Thomas constantly questioned Plaintiff as to when he would retire. Repeatedly saying things such as, “you should make my life easier and your life easier and retire now.” Stauffer did not want to retire until 60 years of age but began to feel that he was being pushed out.

After continuous comments and questions Plaintiff told his immediate supervisor, Sean Thomas, that he was not going to retire and that he was going to remain until 60 years of age.

Immediately thereafter the increase in hostility towards Stauffer was almost unbearable. Mr. Thomas started screaming at Stauffer in front of other workers and blaming him for things that he did not do. 

On one occasion, he screamed at him that he knocked two pictures off the wall and was so aggressive that everyone in the office heard about it and thought that he had actually attacked Stauffer. This behavior had risen to such a level that Stauffer contacted his Union and told his Union boss, Andrew Chaney, about what had been going on. When Plaintiff went in to speak with Andrew Chaney he began to question him saying, “I heard about this, what exactly happened? Did he hit you? We heard that there has been a lot of yelling and screaming and the employees have all come and reported that he has been yelling and screaming at you.” Stauffer explained to Andy Chaney that in fact he had been treating him very poorly. He detailed how Mr. Thomas yells and screams at him all the time in front of everybody. Mr. Thomas constantly aims to humiliate him and continually asks when he is going to retire. Stauffer explained to Andy that he believes Mr. Thomas wants him to retire and that he is being forced out due to his age.

Shortly thereafter, Stauffer was called into Human Resources, who said they wanted to conduct an investigation. While meeting with human resources, Stauffer explained that he felt uncomfortable and threatened by Mr. Thomas. He explained how Mr. Thomas is constantly screaming at him, treating him unfairly and constantly referring to his “need” to retire, which he had already expressed he would not be doing.

Human resources said they would look into the issues. However, Stauffer is aware that a fellow employee went to report the yelling and screaming but it seems Human Resources just chose to believe it was all Stauffer's fault. Immediately thereafter Mr. Thomas greatly increased his hostility towards Stauffer. Mr. Thomas began nitpicking and scrutinizing all of Stauffer's work. He continued to scream at him in front of everyone, and attempted to blame every issue on him. 

On a few occasions when he and Mr. Thomas had to work together on a job, Mr. Thomas would return and tell everyone that the job took so long because he is too slow. When he attempted to defend himself he was yelled at and told to “shut up” in front of everyone. 

Throughout this time, Plaintiff believed there was a Human Resources investigation going on. He trusted that these issues would stop, and that Mr. Thomas would be reprimanded for his actions. However, as time went on, Mr. Thomas’s hostility towards Plaintiff only became worse and increased in severity and frequency.

Approximately 2 months later, Human Resources called him into the office. They stated that they were aware that he and Mr. Thomas were not getting along. They stated that Mr. Thomas reports that he, “does not work well with others”, and that he had become a problem, as he and Mr. Thomas were not “getting along."

Following this meeting, he was given 2 paid weeks off. He was told to “let things calm down” during this time. He was also told by Human Resources that he should think seriously about retiring, and if he chose not to that he would need to consider leaving the job. 

His Union representative Andrew Chaney said to him, “They are gunning for your job and they're probably going to let you go so why don't you just retire.”

In response to these statements, Stauffer offered to be moved to any other position or location so that he was no longer working under Mr. Thomas. Human resources replied that they were not going to pay him $90,000 a year to pick up garbage. And, once again, insisted that he just retire. 

When he returned from his 2 week break, Stauffer was told by Human Resources that there were proposed charges against him. The complaints against him were that he had been committing behavior “unbecoming of an employee."

He was absolutely shocked to see that the result of him following the protocol to report Mr. Thomas’s behavior to Human Resources, he was now being ostracized, suspended, accused of misconduct and being told to retire or get fired. 

He was extremely upset, stressed out, and had been dealing with this hostile treatment for a very long time. He continued to use every resource available to help him through his union representative, until eventually receiving confirmation that he was, in fact, being pushed out. He was threatened and told that if he does not retire, he would be fired and “lose everything."

As a result, and feeling as though he had no other choice, he started the process for his retirement. On the day when he was signing his documents Mr. Thomas called on speaker phone to another employee and yelled “Make sure he signs the retirement papers! Make sure he is retiring and signs that document!"

As previously reported here on FAA News, Freehold Attorney Vincent P. Manning Esq. has filed a 3-count lawsuit against the Township.

The lawsuit asserts that Stauffer worked for the township since 2016 with absolutely no issue except for one false allegation which was proved to be unfounded. He has never been written up and has received successful continuous raises. He was approximately 10 years older than his boss and was constantly reminded of how he should retire and how old he is.

He went to the human resources department to report that this illegal activity was going on and as a result the treatment increased and he was subsequently fired. 

He suffered a deduction in his pension, lost 6 years at $90,000 per year, was caused to pay additional healthcare benefits, and suffer from extreme stress. He had a silent heart attack during this time as he had become increasingly anxious and stressed. In fact, he had to actually take sick days because he was so distraught over the situation.

He believes Mr. Thomas was trying to make him feel like he was making mistakes and blaming himself for everything in an effort to make him quit. As a result, he now has had to begin therapy because he is experiencing anxiety, stuttering (which he never did before) heart issues, stress tests, and other stress related health issues which only came about after Mr. Thomas began treating him in this manner.

The first count alleges that the Township violated the Conscientious Employee Protection Act when Stauffer notified Human Resources and his Union Representative that he was being harassed and discriminated against because of his age, specifically being screamed at by his superior, being spoken to in a lude manner, being subjected to constant comments about his age and retiring, and instead of assisting him, the Human Resources Department began to blame Plaintiff instead and increased pressure on him to retire.

The second count alleges that Sean Thomas created a hostile work environment and discriminated against Stauffer as a result of his complaint to his Union boss and Human Resources department by increasing the ridicule and hostile environment after Plaintiff reported discriminatory behavior.

The third count alleges that the Township is vicariously liable in the actions of their employees.

The Township has failed to answer the complaint. Accordingly, the Court has now placed an entry of default against the Township. This means that the Court will soon schedule a proof hearing in which the plaintiff must present their case in front of the court to show the damages that were actually sustained by the plaintiff. If the Township still does not appear at this stage, the plaintiff can be granted a default judgment.

Jackson Township is currently embattled in lawsuits filed by a number of former employees who allege they were harassed into retirement.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Jackson Township's Board of Education was also recently slammed with a lawsuit filed by a now terminated employee who alleges he was repeatedly harassed, and ultimately terminated by his supervisors over a disability that required him to use the restroom frequently.

As previously reported here on FAA News, the Township is currently being sued by their former Director of Public Works, who alleges he was retaliated against for legally pursuing forming a local management union to represent management employees of the Township. Township officials including Mayor Reina actively opposed these efforts.

As more recently reported here on FAA News, a newly filed explosive whistleblower lawsuit reveals allegations of massive collusion between Jackson Mayor Mike Reina and certain big developers in the Township.

Specifically, the suit alleges that Reina and Business Manager Terence Wall repeatedly coerced the Township's building inspectors to massively "look away" for his important friends, and openly threatened to terminate their employment if they didn't do the dirty work they demanded.

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