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Plaintiff did not establish a sincerely held religious belief protected her from adhering to employer’s Covid policies.


2023 U.S. DIST. LEXIS 215345
(Decided 12/1/23)

Plaintiff, an employee of Princeton University, was terminated from her position as a budget analyst based on her refusal to adhere to the University’s COVID policies. Plaintiff filed a complaint in the New Jersey Federal District Court claiming religious discrimination and retaliation motivated her termination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The Court held that Plaintiff did not establish a sincerely held religious belief so there could be no religious discrimination and no retaliation.

Niedweske Law Case Updates

(NJ Law Against Discrimination)

In 2013, the Department Chair positions held by Plaintiffs Anna D’Antonio and Donna Stridacchio with Defendant Newark Public Schools were abolished in favor of the creation of additional Vice-Principal positions. Plaintiffs alleged that they were passed over for the Vice-Principal positions because of their ages, late fifties, and their race, Caucasian. In August 2015, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit alleging reverse race and age discrimination pursuant to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et. seq. (“NJLAD”). Following a two (2) week trial, the jury was unanimous in its finding that Plaintiffs were subjected to age and reverse race discrimination. Plaintiff D’Antonio was awarded $617,930 for back pay and emotional damages. Plaintiff Stridacchio was awarded $608,574 for back pay and emotional damages. Plaintiffs were also awarded $100,000 in punitive damages arising from Defendant’s willful and wanton behavior.

Following all evidence presented, the jury found that Plaintiffs were passed over for the promotions in favor of less qualified, younger and non-Caucasian individuals. A forty (40) year old African American male and a forty-seven (47) year old Hispanic woman, who had not even applied for the position nor was interviewed, were chosen over Plaintiff D’Antonio. Plaintiff Stridacchio was passed over in favor of a thirty-five (35) year old Caucasian male, who his Principal testified could maintain her “fast pace” which was considered a euphemism for age; a thirty-one (31) year old African American female, who had no administrative experience and was promoted from a position as a biology teacher; a thirty-three (33) year old Caucasian female who had no administrative experience and was promoted from a position as a social worker; and a thirty-five (35) year old Hispanic male who was promoted from a special education teacher position and who was hired, based on the Principal’s testimony, because the school had become 60%-70% Hispanic.

(NJ Conscientious Employee Protection Act)

Plaintiff was employed as the Grant Administrator for the Cancer Registry (the “Registry”), Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (“CINJ”). His employment began in October 2018 and quickly expanded to also include management of the Registry’s business operations, where he noticed that his supervisor was approving expenditures which did not comport with grant guidelines. Plaintiff brought his concerns to upper management and was told to mind his business. Following his complaints, Plaintiff was falsely accused by his subordinate of workplace harassment. He was placed on administrative leave pending the investigation in which he was exonerated of any wrongdoing. When he was slated to return to work, he was told that his position was being eliminated due to the specious conflicting statements of reorganization, lack of funding or no need for someone in his position. The rationales were clearly pretextual for retaliation since the Registry immediately posted online for an open position which had the same responsibilities held by Plaintiff but with a different job title.

The Complaint was filed in August of 2020 alleging violations of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protect Act. In 2021, following extensive discovery, the parties amicably resolved the matter.

(NJ Conscientious Employee Protection Act)</p

Plaintiff was employed as the Principal at the Newgrange School (“Newgrange”), which is a New Jersey State Approved Private School For Students With Disabilities (“APSSD). On or about July 1, 2020, a newly-created position of Director of Innovation and Strategy was given to the brother-in-law of the Head of the School, who was also Plaintiff’s immediate supervisor. On or about August 24, 2020, Plaintiff received an email that the newly hired employee was not eligible to work for Newgrange because of a previous criminal conviction. The email stated that a letter would be forthcoming from the New Jersey Department of Education Office of Student Protection (“DOE”) formally notifying Newgrange of the need to terminate the employee until the conviction was expunged. Plaintiff held the only Principal’s Certification at Newgrange which would be called into question if Newgrange did not comply with the DOE’s mandate. Plaintiff’s supervisor refused to terminate his brother-in-law so Plaintiff contacted the DOE directly, with copies to members of Newgrange’s Board of Trustees to advise that she was withdrawing from the matter to protect her Principal’s Certification.

In retaliation, Plaintiff’s supervisor began to treat her with disdain and micromanaged her work. He avoided communication with her, marginalized her from other offices, and interfered with her ability to perform her job responsibilities. On the first day of the 2020-2021 school year, Plaintiff was terminated under the guise that her position was at will and could be terminated at any time. Plaintiff’s supervisor advised her staff that Plaintiff had taken actions injurious to Newgrange requiring her employment termination. These false allegations were then posted on Newgrange Parents’ Facebook page defaming Plaintiff’s stellar reputation.

A Complaint was filed on November 6, 2020 alleging violations of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act,. Following aggressive discovery conducted in 2021, the parties amicably resolved the matter.

(NJ Conscientious Employee Protection Act)

Plaintiff was a Nurse Manager with Atlantic Health System (“AHS”). She supervised approximately one hundred (100) nurses and nurses’ aides. After a change in nursing station software, the workflow between physicians and nurses was set to change. Under the old system, nurses could receive doctor orders through a texting mechanism that was more convenient for the physicians, but did not insure patient privacy. A policy was put into place by AHS that texting orders was no longer an option, which the doctors refused to support. Nurses were placed in the precarious position of waiting for a written doctor’s order placing patient safety in question or providing the service verbally authorized by the doctor placing their own licenses in jeopardy. Plaintiff brought her nurses’ concerns to upper management knowing it might place her own employment at risk. In fact, Plaintiff did receive her first negative performance review and, shortly thereafter, her employment was terminated allegedly due to financial constraints. Plaintiff later learned that AHS blamed her termination on her lack of critical care experience. Plaintiff rebutted both of these claims by showing the financial stability of her three (3) units and her extensive critical care experience.

Plaintiff filed her complaint on July 30, 2019 alleging violations of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act. Following extensive discovery, the parties amicably resolved this matter in September of 2021.

(NJ Law Against Discrimination)

Plaintiffs were all New Jersey Deputy Attorney Generals (“DAsG”) during the relevant time period. Plaintiffs had exemplary careers with the State of New Jersey and sought monetary damages and equitable relief in an effort to remediate systemic race discrimination. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office is the chief law enforcement agency within the State with a history of racially discriminatory practices in hirings and promotions. Out of 700 DAsG, in 2017, only 44 were African American with little or no representation in senior management. Despite Plaintiffs’ many accomplishments, they did not receive promotions, recognition, compensation or opportunities provided to their similarly situated non-African American counterparts.

Plaintiffs filed their complaint on May 1, 2017 alleging race discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The parties engaged in lengthy and voluminous discovery until June of 2021. The parties amicably resolved this matter through mediation in October 2023.

(New Jersey Computer-Related Offenses Act)

Plaintiff provides home health services to a medically vulnerable population of children and adults. An Order to Show Cause was filed against two employees who were alleged to have misappropriated confidential corporate information as well as confidential patient information. Defendants, a married couple, counterclaimed alleging numerous violations under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. A forensic computer expert was retained to investigate the extent of the misappropriation along with numerous depositions and extensive exchange of written discovery. The matter was amicably resolved with Plaintiff’s corporate and patient information returned in its entirety.

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