Government Watchdog Discloses $100k Settlement in NJ Discrimination Suit

Through the sleuthing of a government watchdog, the confidential settlement of a sex discrimination lawsuit against a New Jersey fire department last July has been publicly revealed.

John Paff, a well known open government advocate, uncovered the settlement between the Rockaway Township Fire Department and Sara Matthews.

Matthews filed suit in 2013 claiming she was ordered to return to duty following an injury, and warned she would be demoted from lieutenant to firefighter if she did not. She claims she was then terminated without notice.

Her suit alleges similarly situated male firefighter were treated differently. She also accused the department leadership of creating a hostile work environment and retaliation.

The settlement called for Rockaway Township to pay Matthews $100,000, with $50,000 of that going to her attorneys. In the settlement, neither side admitted liability.

Paff was able to determine that the lawsuit had been dismissed, but the settlement agreement was missing from the court record. Through his knowledge of the open records law he was able to obtain a copy of the settlement, which he posted on his Twitter feed.

Here is a copy of the original complaint filed in the case along with the settlement: Matthews v Rockaway

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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