Update: On September 17, 2019, the County and Butts entered into a confidential settlement agreement under which Butts received $75,000. Of that amount, Butts received $40,730.08 and his lawyer received $34,269.92.

On February 7, 2018, a truck driver employed by Salem County filed a lawsuit against the county claiming that he was called a “n****r” and “compared to primates.”  He also claimed that his superiors retaliated against for being injured on the job by subjecting him “to a barrage of false or frivolous write-ups.”

In his lawsuit, Grady Butts, who has worked for the county since 1997, claimed that the racial harassment started in 2013.  In 2014, after internal complaints did not abate the alleged harassment, Butts filed a verified complaint with the the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (NJDRC).  In his NJDCR complaint, Butts claimed that co-worker Sean Eastlack referred to him and another black employee as “primates” and called him a “n****r.”  Butts said that his complaints to supervisors fell on deaf ears and that he “received an unpaid suspension for insubordination and abandonment on December 3, 2014” in retaliation for his complaints.  The NJDCR matter was resolved on June 12, 2015 by a settlement in which Salem County paid Butts $6,000 and “agreed to expunge all discipline from [Butts’] personnel file.”  The settlement is set forth at pages 5 – 7 of the NJDCR Complaint at the link above.

In his recent lawsuit, Butts claimed that in 2014 he suffered two on-the-job injuries that caused his physician to order him to be placed on restricted work duties.  He claimed that in retaliation for seeking modified duties, his supervisors falsely accused him of insubordination and suspended him.  He also claimed that he was written up for frivolous reasons, forced to perform heavy lifting despite his doctor’s orders and was again called a “n****r” and compared to primates.

On April 19, 2018, the county filed an answer to Butts’ complaint which denied Butts’ allegations and claimed, among other things, that Butts “welcomed and/or participated in the conduct of which he or she now complains.”

Butts’ lawyers are Gregg L. Zeff and Eva C. Zelson of Mount Laurel and the County of Salem is represented by Allan E. Richardson of Mullica Hill.  Butts’ lawsuit, like all lawsuits, is comprised of allegations.  Nothing has been proven and the burden of proof is upon Butts.

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