On August 22, 2012, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) agreed to pay $22,500 to a Lambertville woman who claimed that NJDEP officials discriminated against her based on her gender and displayed hostility toward her.

In her suit, Martha Goodwin said NJDEP Bureau Chief, Robert Soboleski, and Section Chief, Donald Kakas, created a hostile work environment for her from 2006 through 2009.  She alleged “a general pattern of adverse actions and undermining female employees.” She claimed that employee Thomas Gryzmski, who allegedly “had a reputation of causing havoc wherever he worked in the NJDEP” did not like have a female supervisor and would begin “loud soliloquies” and “loud tirades” in front of others but that Soboleski and Kakas “never told him to stop.”

The alleged hostility culminated on February 24, 2009 when Soboleski allegedly told a co-worker about Goodwin that “that f***ing c**t is dead meat. Her days are numbered.”  She alleged that the conduct to which she was subject caused her to suffer depression and that her attempts to be reassigned to another bureau were not honored.

The case is captioned Goodwin v. NJDEP, Federal Case No. 11-cv-4236 and Goodwin represented herself in the lawsuit. Case documents are on-line here.

None of Goodwin’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $22,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by NJDEP or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that NJDEP or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Goodwin $22,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]