Stephen Schwartz is suing a number of entities all run by the same Lakewood-based management office where, according to the lawsuit, he was hired under a two-year contract to serve as an attorney. The named defendants in the suit, filed Monday in state Superior Court in Paterson, are Oorah Inc., Kars 4 Kids and J.O.Y. For Our Youth. Schwartz was allegedly fired because he had to do reserve duty with the National Guard.
Originally published at 11:33 pm CDT 8-10-2013
[Hat Tip: Adams.]
A Clifton man hired as a corporate lawyer has filed suit in state court claiming that he was subjected to a hostile work environment because of his military-service obligations.
Stephen Schwartz is suing a number of entities all run by the same Lakewood-based management office where, according to the lawsuit, he was hired under a two-year contract to serve as an attorney. The named defendants in the suit, filed Monday in state Superior Court in Paterson, are Oorah Inc., Kars 4 Kids and J.O.Y. For Our Youth.
Other than characterizing them as corporations conducting business within the state of New Jersey, the suit does not describe the function of any of the named entities, nor would the plaintiff's attorney explain when reached by phone what kind of work they do.
Schwartz is suing the defendants under New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination for harassment, discriminatory discharge, retaliation and breach of contract. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, along with attorney fees.
Schwartz was hired in September 2012 in a two-year contract "only terminable upon showing of good cause," the suit states. At all times during his employment, he was in the U.S. military service. In October 2012, the suit states, Schwartz advised the defendants' director of human resources of his status in the National Guard and his need for leave. He further told his human resources director that he would withdraw from his military enrollment if the defendants provided him with health care coverage, according to the suit.
The human resources director, the suit states, advised Schwartz that "we can't tell the CEO you're in the Army. He'll think it's disloyal. He'll be upset you didn't tell him in the interview." The human resources director further advised him that she would rather that he continue to take time off than to provide him with health insurance, but that they would revisit the issue in April 2013, the suit states.
It is unclear from the suit specifically how much time he needed for leave, and how periodically.
In April, Schwartz was called into a meeting with company CEO Alwyn Gordon and human resources Director Dina Stern. "Mr. Gordon stated to plaintiff that the defendants would have never hired plaintiff if they had known of his military service. Throughout the meeting, Mr. Gordon spoke to the plaintiff in an aggressive and degrading fashion. … Thereafter, plaintiff was treated in a hostile, intimidating and abusive fashion."
On June 25, the suit states, Gordon presented Schwartz with a paper agreement that his contract was to be terminated. Schwartz refused to sign the agreement because it removed the guaranteed time from his initial contract and essentially made him an employee at-will, the suit states.
"Plaintiff was sent home on June 27, 2013. Plaintiff has not been returned to work since June 27, 2013. Plaintiff has been terminated from his employment with defendants. A determinative and/or motivating factor in the plaintiff's discharge was his military status."
Attorney Jim Panzini of Morristown, representing the defendants, denied allegations of military discrimination. "We appreciate the dedication of our military men and women," he said. "We look forward to being vindicated in court."