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Random Notes on NJ Government

Gay employee claims in lawsuit that Salem school officials harassed him for being a foster parent.

According to his February 9, 2018 lawsuit, a gay man employed by the Salem City School District (Salem County) began to experience workplace harassment after he told his supervisor that he was taking foster parenting classes.  According to the lawsuit, his supervisor and fellow employees told him that he needed “to find a woman” and that “You don’t need kids, just get another pet.”

The lawsuit was filed by Joseph Longo, III, who is identified on the school district’s website as a Social Worker.  The employees Longo claimed to have mistreated him are Pamela Bates-Thomas, Dale Gardner and Dr. Billie Slaughter, who are identified on the same webpage, respectively, as Director of Special Services, Transition Coordinator and School Psychologist, and Superintendent Dr. Amiot Patrick Michel.

According to the lawsuit, Longo told Bates-Thomas in September 2016 that he was taking foster parenting classes.  Longo claimed that Bates-Thomas and Gardner would make negative comments about him being a foster parent “nearly every day.”

While not entirely clear, the lawsuit alleges that Longo took in a new foster child in May 2017 after two other foster children had left his home.  The departure of the two children caused Slaughter to tell Longo “I hope you learned your lesson, you don’t need any children,” according to the complaint.

Longo claimed in his lawsuit that Bates-Thomas told him that he “was not a real parent” and that he needed to choose between being a foster parent and his carerr.  She allegedly told Longo that he didn’t deserve a personal day to take the child to a doctor’s appointment.  She allegedly said that “Arrangements can be made to return the [foster] child to the [child care] organization, which would not occur if it is your own child.”

According to the suit, Superintendent Michel asked Longo “invasive and harassing questions” regarding whether he was getting paid to take care of the foster children.  Michel allegedly told Longo that because no one paid him (i.e. Michel) to take care of his daughter, Longo was “not a real parent.”

Separately, Longo claimed in his suit that Bates-Thomas was dismissive of an LGBT club at the high school.  “I can’t believe they have this club.” she reportedly remarked.

On April 2, 2018, the school district filed its answer to Longo’s lawsuit and denied nearly all of Longo’s allegations.  The answer also challenged Longo’s assertion that he was a “former employee” that began working for the district in September 2000.  According to the school district, Longo is a current employee who began working for the district in 2009.

Longo is being represented by Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel and the school district’s lawyer is Jay D. Branderbit of Cherry Hill.

Longo’s lawsuit, like all lawsuits, consists only of allegations.  Nothing has been proven.  The burden rests on Longo to prove his allegatinos before a court of law.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project