A Jersey City Board of Education worker has filed a gender discrimination lawsuit claiming she is “drastically underpaid” compared to “her younger minority peers.”
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Elizabeth Perry, who filed the four-count lawsuit in Hudson County Superior Court on December 5th, was appointed as a Clerk 1 for the district on March 23rd, 2015 at an annual salary of $37,818.
“However, throughout her employment with JCBOE, Plaintiff has been paid at a significantly lower salary as Clerk 1 than her younger minority peers, which continues to date. Sometime during the 2019-2020 school year, Plaintiff requested a desk audit related to her position as Clerk 1 and JCBOE’s failure to promote her despite her certifications,” the lawsuit says.
“On or about September 4, 2020, Plaintiff was promoted from Clerk 1 to Provisional Records Support Technician 2, where she has remained to date despite it being a ‘provisional’ position. Plaintiff’s salary in 2020 was $45,180.50.”
In addition to getting promoted, her salary was increased to $55,083.16, which she alleges in the court filing is still far lower than “her younger minority peers.”
Through her attorney Erdal Turnacioglu, Perry alleges that Human Resources Director Edwin Rivera offered her a Clerk 2 position since it would have greater opportunity for advancement, though she would have to move take her prior salary for the time being.
She declined and the suit goes on to list five other BOE employees who work as either clerks or permanent record support technicians who earn between $63,785 and $72,735 per year.
Furthermore, despite receiving three different certifications, she was not hired for five positions she applied for between October 2019 and October 2021, the court filing states.
“As for the Transportation Clerk position, Plaintiff walked out of the interview because the interviewer selected the person she (the interviewer) wanted before meeting with Plaintiff,” the suit asserts.
“Plaintiff’s experience interviewing for the Transportation Clerk position is further proof that the Departments within the JCBOE already know who they will select for promotions, and if the applicant does not have a familial relationship with, or otherwise favored by, the supervisor or manager, then the interviewee is only there to make the process appear compliant with the Civil Service Commission.”
Perry continued that multiple emails sent to the administration asking why she was not getting promoted did not get a definitive answer.
“In or around July 2022, the Civil Service Commission certified Plaintiff for the Clerk 2 position. In or around August 2022, Plaintiff found out that certain employees from the Human Resources Department were listed as being certified for the title of Personnel Aide, namely: Shametia Spencer, MaDonna Morris, Pamela Felts, Kimberly Hood, and Annette Smith,” the lawsuit alleges.
“This confirmed Plaintiff’s emails in 2021 advising the JCBOE about those whose titles prior to August 2022 were Personnel Aides, yet were not certified for the position. Pointedly, no notice or posting was provided by the JCBOE or by the Civil Service Commission informing Plaintiff that the competitive/promotional listing for the Personnel Aide position was open.”
She further contends that this practice was contrary to what the school district had done in the past, which was telling employees within the administrative office building that certain competitive jobs/promotions had been listed.
“To date, Mr. Rivera has not taken any prompt or effective action to correct the disparate pay issues or the violations of public policy. As a result of Defendant’s actions, Plaintiff felt extremely humiliated, degraded, victimized, embarrassed, and emotionally distressed.”
The lawsuit claims that the district has engaged in pay discrimination in violation of the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, sex/gender discrimination, pay discrimination of the New Jersey Equal Pay Act, and violation of the state Civil Service Act.
As a result, Perry is seeking treble, compensatory, consequential, and punitive damages; front and back pay with benefits, prejudgment interest and enhancements to off-set negative tax consequences; attorneys fees, being appointed to the position of personnel aide, and any other relief the court deems just and equitable.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Norma Fernandez and Board Counsel Michael Gross did not return an email seeking comment, though the district typically does not comment on pending litigation.