On May 14, 2014, the Raritan Valley Community College (Somerset County) agreed to pay $105,000 to a former employee who claimed that she was subjected to “numerous incidents [of] derogatory, ethnic and racist comments regarding ethnic backgrounds of various employees.”

In her suit, Teresa Carreras-Melendi, an administrative assistant first hired by the college in 2009, claimed that her supervisor, Nancy Jordan, who has served as the Dean of Students and Dean of Academic Programs and Partnerships, said such things as “Asians are smarter, Hispanics are typically poor in math, and that an African-American student would probably have to attend a traditionally African-American college.”  Jordan also allegedly referred to “certain parts of the population being ‘White Trash.'”

After Carreras-Melendi filed a complaint against Jordan with the Human Resources Department, she alleged that she was forced to sign a “self-serving document purporting to exculpate” Jordan.  She said that although she disagreed with the document, she “was threatened and intimidated and informed that plaintiff could not leave the room without signing” it. 

After filing the grievance, Carreras-Melendi alleged that the college administration, including Human Resources Director Nancy Moore, retaliated against her and treated her negatively.  She later complained to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which ultimately issued a “Notice of Right to Sue.” 

The case is captioned Carreras-Melendi v. Raritan Valley Community College, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-03838 and Carreras-Melendi’s attorney was Glenn A. Montgomery of Bridgewater.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public’s right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Carreras-Melendi’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $105,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the college or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that the college or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Carreras-Melendi $105,000 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]