ATLANTIC CITY — The school board won its second lawsuit in two months after being sued by former employees in federal court alleging retaliation by the district.
The latest suit, filed in 2014 by former substitute custodian Michele Moody, alleged the district retaliated against her after she reported her supervisor for sexual discrimination.
On June 3, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the Atlantic City Board of Education.
“When Michele Moody made her complaint to the Atlantic City Board of Education, an investigation was immediately conducted. Ms. Moody’s complaint was taken very seriously,” Superintendent Barry Caldwell said.
Caldwell was named in the suit and served as the district’s supervisor of maintenance when the allegations took place.
Moody’s attorney, Samuel Dion, said he was disappointed by the verdict.
“We fought hard to bring it back from the appellate court. We actually changed the law regarding the way sexual harassment cases are litigated in the 3rd Circuit,” Dion said, referring to a 2017 ruling that defined the role of supervisor. “It was unfortunate that we didn’t have a positive outcome.”
The case was filed in 2014. In it, Moody alleged the foreman at the New York Avenue School had pursued a sexual relationship with her in exchange for hours. She further states the district had retaliated by not assigning her hours and transferring her children to a different school. She sought lost pay and benefits and damages for pain and suffering, as well as attorney’s fees.
The court dismissed the case on summary judgment in 2016, but Moody appealed to the 3rd Circuit, where the issue was remanded. A two-week jury trial took place in May.
In April, a federal jury in Camden also cleared the Atlantic City school board of liability in a lawsuit filed by Dewane Parker, a former district supervisor of security and truancy who was fired in June 2015 along with more than 220 other employees as part of larger budget cuts that year.
Parker filed a suit claiming he should have been rehired for a new position as coordinator of public safety but was not notified when the job was posted. In that case, the jury unanimously found retaliation was not a motivating factor in the board’s decision to cut Parker’s position.