Principal May Have a Case Over Rude Behavior
(CN) - A school principal can pursue claims that her superintendent's crude behavior included asking an employee who underwent chemotherapy whether her pubic hair would fall out, a federal judge ruled.
After 26 years of service to the Camden County Technical Schools Board of Education, Teresa Stallone became the principal of the Technical Institute in May 2008. The board had named Albert Monillas as superintendant earlier that year, and Stallone began heading a second campus in Gloucester Township in 2009.
She says she first voiced her concerns in February 2011 about allegedly sexually offensive oral and written statements Monillas made.
That month Monillas, Stallone and another principal in the district had been discussing plans to attend a statewide meeting for technical schools.
"Do the three of us want to share a room?" Monillas allegedly asked in an email.
Stallone says she and the other principal both refused, but that Monillas suggested in a second email that he sleep in one bed and that the ladies share another.
Monillas also allegedly told the other principal that he sleeps in the nude.
Stallone says a year before she had found the supervisor in his office, trying on a pair of pants with help from his wife. As she entered Monillas allegedly pulled up his shirt a bit to tuck it in, exposing his stomach and the top band of his underwear.
She says she also witnessed Monillas once ask a female employee who had undergone chemotherapy whether her pubic hair was going to fall out. Monillas also allegedly discussed skinny-dipping with staff members and reminisced about swimming nude in the pool during his gym class days.
Shortly after Stallone reported these allegedly "unwelcome, pervasive, inappropriate, and offensive" acts to assistant superintendant Kathryn Hartford, the principal allegedly learned from Monillas that her salary would drop by $10,000 annually once the Technical Institute closed in five months' time.
No other board employees received pay cuts, however, even if they were transferred and given fewer duties after the institute's closure, according to the complaint.
A month later, the board allegedly dissolved Hartford's position. Hartford announced her suspicion at a March board meeting that her termination was tied to having reported the sexual discrimination complaint made by "the principals," according to the lawsuit.
That same day, Monillas allegedly emailed all district staff that Fitzgerald made no such complaint, in effect announcing that Stallone - the only other principal - had complained.
Stallone filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012 and sued the board, Monillas and Hartford later that year.
The principal accuses the board of violating her right to confidentiality, as well as its own policies, by discussing her complaint at a meeting and failing to complete an investigation within 10 days or give her a copy of the results. She asserts violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
The board and Monillas moved for a more definite statement and to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Hartford did not join the motion.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler refused to fully dismiss the complaint or demand a more definite statement Sept. 13.
"Plaintiff's complaint is not unintelligible, vague, or ambiguous," Kugler wrote. "It is clearly written and provides details, including exact quotations, dates, and locations for many of the incidents that it alleges to have taken place. It sets forth fair notice of plaintiff's claims and the grounds upon which those claims rest."
The judge did, however, dismiss Stallone's claim against Monillas in his official capacity and her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
"Because plaintiff has not alleged permanent loss of a bodily function, permanent disfigurement, or dismemberment, and she has not alleged medical expenses exceeding $3,600 from injuries caused by defendants, her IIED claim is barred by the [New Jersey Tort Claims Act] NJTCA," Kugler wrote.
Stallone may amend her claims against the board under Section 1983 by Oct. 1, the ruling states.