On October 8, 2015, the Lindenwold Board of Education (Camden County) agreed to pay $40,000 to a school custodian who claimed that the school board fired her in violation of her rights under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).

In her suit, Colleen Pizzo, who suffers from clinical depression, alleged that her condition caused her physician to order her to take approximately three weeks of medical leave during March and April 2013.  Pizzo claimed that although the leave was qualified under the FMLA, the Board fired her based on its mistaken determination that Pizzo had exhausted her FMLA leave entitlement.

The case is captioned Pizzo v. Lindenwold Board of Education, Federal Case No. 1:13-cv-03633 and Pizzo’s attorney was Richard S. Swartz of Cherry Hill.  The case documents are on-line here.

The agreement also calls for the Board, if contacted by Pizzo’s future prospective employers, to provide a “neutral employment reference.”

None of Pizzo’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $40,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Lindenwold or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Lindenwold or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Pizzo $40,000 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]