A Jersey City Department of Recreation supervisor is alleging that a former director discriminated against him, calling him names like “a fat f***,” and giving him unfavorable assignments in hopes of making him resign.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Joseph Napolitano, Jr. has been employed by the city since 2001 and began serving as a recreation supervisor the following year, according to a lawsuit filed in Bergen County Superior Court last week by attorney Christopher Karounos.
When Arthur Williams took over as the department head in 2018, he immediately began having conflicts with Napolitano, “on the basis of his disability (body type), race, age, and retaliation for Plaintiff reporting additional violations and Defendant’s creation of a hostile work environment,” the court filing says.
“Director Williams made specific outrageous derogatory comments to Plaintiff numerous times in the presence of others in the various JCDOR office areas including, but not limited to, ‘You are fat f***!,’ ‘You are lazy fat f***,’ or words [to] that effect.”
Williams also allegedly used offensive, sexually explicit comments when speaking to female employees, quoted in the lawsuit as saying “I have more faith in a used condom than [female employee].”
The female employee referenced is Sabrina Harrold, who references similar remarks in pending litigation against Williams and the city, which three other employees also filed last year.
Additionally, Williams is accused of removing Napolitano from his role as a supervisor at Pershing Field to an office trailer at Caven Point as part of the rec department’s main headquarters, where he was still verbally berated regularly.
The situation allegedly escalated after Napolitano reported instances to Williams such as $2,500 being spent on two coach buses from Hudson Gardens to Dorney Park, leading the plaintiff to pass out twice during work hours due to stress.
Eventually, Napolitano filed complaints with the city’s Department of Human Resources, as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, though the city “fraudulently and deceptively reported results” that were inconsistent with the findings of an independent investigator.
The complaint indicates that the investigator found that Williams engaged in “inappropriate, harassing, discriminatory, and/or other improper behavior.”
In spite of this, the Department of Human Resources issued a letter on March 6th, 2019 that said there was not sufficient evident to show Williams engaged in inappropriate behavior, the complaint alleges.
A second EEOC investigation that produced a final determination on June 24th, 2019 produced nearly identical results to the first one, according to the complaint, finally led to Williams being ousted from the rec department in the following month.
Ultimately, the five-count lawsuit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, treble damages pursuant to the act, reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses, and any other relief the court deems just and equitable.
“The city has yet to be served with any such lawsuit, but will take these allegations very seriously,” city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said.
Last month, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission ruled in the city’s favor regarding the department’s reorganization in late 2019, which occurred after Williams’ departure, though that situation still has pending litigation as well.