A federal judge in Camden says a female school principal may pursue sex discrimination claims against a superintendent based in part on allegations about his conduct toward other women under his supervision.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler held in Stallone v. Camden County Technical Schools Board of Education that such conduct, and even actions not overtly sexual, may be part of a pattern establishing a hostile work environment.
The plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to state claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, considering the "conduct alleged to have been directed at Plaintiff along with incidents involving other Board employees," Kugler wrote on Sept. 13.
Teresa Stallone, a board of education employee since 1982, claimed that Albert Monillas, who headed Camden County Technical Schools, repeatedly made off-color and offensive remarks.
In 2011, Monillas allegedly suggested in emails to Stallone and another female principal, Patricia Fitzgerald, that the three of them share a hotel room at an upcoming conference ­— warning Fitzgerald that he slept in the nude.
In 2010, Monillas allegedly discussed nude swimming with staffers and, in the presence of Stallone and others, asked employee Mary Gretzula, who would be undergoing chemotherapy, whether she would lose her pubic hair.
After Stallone reported Monillas' conduct to the district's affirmative action officer, her annual salary allegedly was reduced by $10,000. She was told it was because of a school closure, but she claimed it was retaliatory.
Stallone obtained a right-to-sue notice from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and filed a complaint asserting LAD and Title VII claims against the board and Monillas.
Kugler upheld her retaliation claim, rebuffing the defense's collateral estoppel argument that the issue was adjudicated by a state administrative court. That court only had jurisdiction to consider whether Stallone's pay cut violated her tenure rights, which "is not the same issue whether a compensation decrease was retaliatory," he said.
Kugler did dismiss, albeit without prejudice, her constitutional rights claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983, because the board can't be liable for a supervisor's actions under that provision and Stallone failed to allege a violation arising from board policies or customs.
He dismissed with prejudice Stallone's common-law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress as barred by the state Tort Claims Act.
He also struck her Title VII claims against Monillas. "Although there is conflicting precedent … Plaintiff cannot bring a Title VII claim against Monillas in his official capacity," the judge wrote, noting that the law provides for liability against employers, not supervisors.
Gretzula has filed her own suit, also pending in Camden. She claims Monillas once groped her chest and joked to her that those absent from staff meetings would be castrated or "ovariectomized" as punishment.
Monillas was picked to head Sacred Heart High School in Vineland in July 2012. He resigned that December, shortly after Stallone's and Gretzula's suits were filed and became public.
Fitzgerald became Camden County Technical Schools superintendent in August.
Mark Toscano of the Comegno Law Group in Moorestown, who represents Stallone and Gretzula, did not return a call.
Neither did the defendants' counsel, Gregory Giordano of Lenox, Socey, Formidoni, Giordano, Cooley, Lang & Casey in Lawrenceville.