A former Union City municipal employee says in a lawsuit she faced retaliation, getting moved to a different department and losing out on terminal leave time, after reporting a sexual harassment incident in late 2021.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The 17-page, six-count lawsuit, filed in Hudson County Superior Court last Friday, says that Norah Del Campo worked at Union City City Hall from about November 12th, 1997 until this past summer.
While working as a clerk for the Union City Senior Citizens Department on September 21st, 2021, she was working with Martin De Jesus, a driver for the department, on scheduling an emergency senior pickup.
“Mrs. del Campo called and spoke with Mr. De Jesus to finish with his scheduled drop-off and then proceed to the emergency pickup,” the lawsuit begins.
“Mr. De Jesus, upon hearing he had to immediately proceed to the emergency pickup, uttered a phrase in Spanish to Mrs. del Campo that translates as a command for Mrs. del Campo to perform oral sex on him.”
Through the suit, del Campo says De Jesus was aware of the fact that she was married at the time, as well as that at least one colleague, Christian Murrugarra, overheard the exchange. He then reported it to Gladys Guiller, who was del Campo’s supervisor.
The court filing also asserts that Guiller downplayed the situation when del Campo approached her, claiming De Jesus was likely joking around.
del Campo disagreed and after she was not able to make a formal complaint to her department, she reported the incident to the mayor’s office. She was advised to have Guiller document the incident and then report it to human resources.
While she was assured lawyers were reviewing the incident, there was no evidence to support the matter was being taken seriously. Around this time, de Jesus began repeatedly calling del Campo and hanging up on her, the suit contends.
Guiller responded by telling del Campo just not to pick up the phone. By November, she was being transferred to the tax collector’s office, despite having a 2005 harassment complaint against an employee there.
Judith Gottlieb, from human resources, effectuated the transfer on January 12th, 2022, prompting del Campo to contact Union City Employees Association Francois Nunez, who filed a union grievance after being informed of the situation.
“Because Defendants failed to take curative action and retaliation and reprisal continued to
occur, Mrs. del Campo was forced to submit retirement paperwork on January 18, 2022,” the suit said.
That same day, Mayor Brian Stack allegedly called del Campo and said he was aware of the grievance but that he ‘was the one in charge of the City and not Mr. Nunez, and that Mrs. del Campo must report to the tax office,'” the filing states.
She then took five personal and/or sick days before the end of the month, but they were attributed as medical leave.
“On February 1, 2022, Mrs. del Campo received a memo indicating that her anticipated amount of terminal leave was $6,623.39. On February 7, 2022, Mrs. del Campo submitted a request for five vacation days,” the suit continues.
“Permanent, full-time employees with 11 years of service or more, such as Mrs. del Campo, are entitled to 25 vacation days a year, without the need to accrue such time.”
She then submitted her application for retirement on March 4th, applying for 10 vacation days in April and then another 10 in May. However, that was denied with the explanation that her vacation time was prorated.
In July, she reached out directly to Stack about the situation via email, in which she says she will take the city to court if she is not pad what she is owed. Stack asked for her phone number, but she never received a call back, the court filing asserts.
Ultimately, she retired effective June 1st, 2022, and despite being owed $6,623.39 in terminal leave, she received just $1,208.48.
She alleges she faced sexual harassment/hostile work environment, gender discrimination, retaliation, violations of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, and the New Jersey Wage Payment Act, as well as breach of implied contract.
As a result, del Campo is seeking no less than $250,000 in compensatory damages,
Damages for lost wages and benefits, back pay, front pay (or reinstatement), damages for humiliation, mental and emotional distress, statutory damages (if applicable), punitive damages and or liquidated damages where permitted by law, attorneys’ fees and costs of suit – along with any other relief the court deems just and equitable.
She is being represented by Ty Hyderally, of Hyderally and Associates, P.C. in Montclair and the Union City Law Department could not be reach for comment on Friday.