On September 21, 2016, the Township of Mullica (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $95,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a “mixed race, both African-American and Puerto Rican” laborer who sued because he was allegedly discriminated against by his white supervisor and coworkers.
In his lawsuit, Jose Robles, a resident of Hammonton, said that his Supervisor, Steven Sperlak, would refer to him as “Hector, Carlos, Jesus and other traditionally Hispanic names” and that his coworkers told him that some equipment that was outside a local hunting club was for “hanging n****ers.” Sperlak also allegedly made a joke about hangings that Robles found offensive. His lawsuit claimed that when he asked why he wasn’t give a code to access fuel from the fuel pumps, coworker Ronald Kahn said that it was “because you’re Puerto Rican and you might steal gas.”
The case is captioned Robles v. Township of Mullica, et al, Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-871-14 and Robles’s attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel. Case documents are on-line here and former summary judgment briefs are on-line here.
None of lawsuit’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants. All that is known for sure is that Mullica or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Robles $95,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision 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 resolve before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.