Saturday, July 16, 2016

Laborer's discrimination suit against Mullica to be tried in September.

Jose Robles, who works as a laborer for Mullica Township (Atlantic County), filed a lawsuit against the Township on March 10, 2014 charging that his supervisor and coworkers, who are all white, discriminated against him because he "is of mixed race, both African-American and Puerto Rican."  Robles also claimed that he was harassed and retaliated against.

Robles, a Hammonton resident, alleged that his Supervisor, Steven Sperlak, would refer to him as "Hector, Carlos, Jesus and other traditionally Hispanic names" and that his coworkers told him that some equipment that was outside a local hunting club was for "hanging n****ers." Sperlak also allegedly made a joke about hangings that Robles found offensive.  His lawsuit claimed that when he asked why he wasn't give a code to access fuel from the fuel pumps, coworker Ronald Kahn said that it was "because you're Puerto Rican and you might steal gas."

The Township moved for summary judgment and Superior Court Judge Joseph L. Marczyk, in a June 10, 2016 order, dismissed one count of Robles' five-count complaint.  The dismissed count charged that Robles had been denied a promotion because of the alleged discrimination.  The remaining counts of the lawsuit are currently scheduled for trial on September 19, 2016, 9 a.m. before Judge Marczyk.  Most such cases, however, settle prior to trial.

The Township's brief in support of summary judgment, written by the Township's attorney, Robert A. Baxter of Haddonfield, states that Roble's allegations about the "hanging n****ers" charge was fully investigated and could not be sustained.  According to the brief, Karl Chase, a former employee who allegedly made the comment, denied making it and that an "independent witness stated that he did not hear it.  According to the brief, Kahn had filed a complaint against Robles for allegedly spreading rumors that Kahn was a racist. 

Robles is being represented in the lawsuit by Drake P. Bearden, Jr. of Mount Laurel.  Beardon's brief in opposition to the summary judgment motion is on-line supports the allegations made in the complaint.