A lawsuit just filed in New Jersey Superior Court in Ocean County alleges that the Township of Lakewood discriminated against an African American bus driver, Ruben Price Jr., due to his disability and race. Price, who began working for the township in July 2022, claims that his supervisor refused to accommodate his medical limitations and instead terminated his employment less than 24 hours after he was hired full-time, allegedly replacing him with a non-disabled Caucasian male.

According to the complaint filed in New Jersey Superior Court in Ocean County by Toms River Attorney Christopher R. Shea, Esq.:

Ruben Price Jr. is an African American male. He began employment in July 2022 as a bus driver for the Township of Lakewood.

During his training, his immediate supervisor instructed him to get on the back of a garbage truck and to assist in garbage collection.

Price immediately informed his supervisor that he could not lift heave objects or ride on the back of a truck due to limitation from a prior back injury. He  then requested that the Township accommodate his medical limitation.

His supervisor refused to grant an accommodation, telling him that he [the supervisor] can tell him to do whatever he [the supervisor] wants. The supervisor also informed him that if he won’t do what he is told then he [the supervisor] will speak with the head of the department to terminate his employment. 

Thereafter, the supervisor informed Price that he spoke with the Department and they decided to keep him on.

However, this didn't last very long.

On or about September 1, 2022, he was hired in a full-time capacity as bus driver. Unfortunately, less then 24 hours later, he was notified by his supervisor that he was being terminated due to his bad back.

Price questioned why. His supervisor responded that he should speak with Human Resources. As a result, he attempted to speak with Human Resources, however, he was not granted a meeting.

He attempted to contact the Human Resources Department approximately 10 times but did not receive any response. To date, Plaintiff has not been provided a reason for his termination. 

Upon information and belief, after his unlawful termination, the Township filled the vacant position was filled by a non-disabled Caucasian male. Upon information and belief, this is because the Township did not have a good faith, legitimate business reason to terminate Price's employment, and if they proffer one, it is manufactured and put forth to disguise their real reason: discrimination (disability and racial) and/or retaliation.

As a result of the Township's discriminatory conduct, Price has sustained economic losses in the form of lost wages and severe emotional distress.

The suit alleges six counts:

i) New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and Discharge: The Township was aware of Price's disability and this disability was the motivating factor in their decision to terminate his employment. The Township's conduct violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Price has suffered economic losses and severe emotional distress as a result of this unlawful discrimination. 

ii) New Jersey Law Against Discrimination - perceived disability discrimination and discharge: The Township terminated Price because they perceived him to be unable to perform his job duties. This perception of his disability was the motivating factor in their decision to terminate his employment. As such, they terminated him because of a perceived disability in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Pricehas suffered economic losses and severe emotional distress as a result of the unlawful discrimination. 

iii) New Jersey Law Against Discrimination - disability discrimination failure to accommodate/ interactive process: Price had a disability as defined by statue. The NJLAD requires the Township to provide him with a reasonable accommodation for this disability. His request was a reasonable accommodation. Accommodating him would not place an undue burden on the Township. In addition, the Township could have engaged in the interactive process with him to determine whether another accommodation was possible, such as allowing him to continue to work as a bus driver, and/or restructuring his job duties, and/or work schedule. However, the Township failed to participate in the interactive process to find a reasonable accommodation for him. Instead, the Township ignored his requests and then utilized the events described above as a pretext to effectuate their discriminatory termination. The Township's failure to engage in the interactive process or reasonably accommodate his disability violated the New Jersey Laws Against Discrimination. As a direct and proximate result of the Township's actions, Price has suffered economic, emotional, and physiological damages in an amount to be determined by a Jury.

v) New Jersey Law Against Discrimination - race discrimination: The Complaint alleges facts indicating that the Township made a concerted effort to discriminate against Price because of his race. This Count also encompasses a NJLAD claim predicated on disparate treatment/impact. Price has suffered severe, emotional distress, as a result of being shunned and marginalized. Further, despite his repeated requests to explain the basis for his treatment; the Township took no remedial or corrective action in this matter. The tangible acts of the Township when taken individually and/or collectively establishes the NJLAD discrimination and disparate treatment claim. 

Price asserts that his race motivated the Township to commit the hostile and intolerable acts and those acts were designed to remove him from his job as is specified above in throughout the factual claims above. 

The individual supervisors acting on behalf of the Township, acting in the scope of their employment and on the Township's behalf, failed to protect Rubin from the cancer of being victimized by race discrimination.

iv) Aiding and abetting discrimination: The Township participated in and/or assisted in the discrimination against Price in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Price has suffered economic losses and severe emotional distress as a result of the unlawful discrimination.

The complaint demands judgmen jointly, severally and in the alternative, for compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, other specific performance and injunctive relief, and for any and all relief permitted and cognizable under the New Jersey Laws Against Discrimination, together with the interests and costs of suit.

The lawsuit demands a trial by jury as to all issues so triable. 

The Township has 35 days to answer the complaint.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Township doesn't care, this all comes out of taxpayer money!