Tony Porto’s Violation of Hainesport’s Employee Handbook

Guest post by Deborah Douglas Plaia

Tony Porto's ViolationAlthough I couldn’t make Tuesday’s township meeting, because I had a trial that I was preparing for, I have read Anna Evans’s account of the meeting, and also the subsequent discussion on Hainesport Happenings, and feel compelled to address the legal issues that have arisen with respect to Tony Porto’s posting of the Kermit meme last June.

The residents of Hainesport should read the Hainesport Township Employee Handbook.  The handbook specifically prohibits sexual harassment and states: “The Township expects all employees, Township Officials, Department Heads, supervisors, to treat other individuals including other employees, volunteers, guests, business invitee, vendors, suppliers, contractors, other non-employees and others  not directly connected with the Township  (collectively referred to as “non-employes”) with respect and courtesy,  both in their speech and in their conduct.”

It goes on to state:

Tony Porto's Violation“THIS POLICY APPLIES TO ALL INCIDENTS OF UNLAWFUL HARASSMENT OR DISCRIMINATION INCLUDING INSTANCES WHICH OCCUR OFF PREMISES OR OFF-HOURS. ALSO, IT DOES NOT MATTER WHETHER IMPROPER CONDUCT TAKES PLACE ON OR OFF TOWNSHIP PREMISES OR BEFORE OR AFTER WORK HOURS SINCE. WHILE THE CONDUCT MAY NOT BE UNLAWFUL, THE EMPLOYEES BEHAVIOR NEGATIVELY REFLECTS UPON THE TOWNSHIP.”  

The Handbook explains that unlawful discrimination or harassment includes, but is not limited to comments, jokes, insults, slurs, derogatory statements, drawings, pictures or cartoons, innuendos, etc. Tony Porto’s violation, whether it was on his private Facebook page, in his home or not, was sexual harassment and not only in violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and Federal law, it violates Hainesport Township’s own employee policy handbook. Every resident, male and female should be outraged. It exposes the Township to lawsuits. 

Where sexual harassment has occurred, the law REQUIRES management to take prompt and adequate remedial action. Under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, where upper management, in this case, the Mayor, knows about an alleged sexual harassment and fails to take prompt and effective measures to stop harassment, the employer (in this case, Hainesport) may be found liable for sexual harassment.

Deborah Douglas Plaia has lived in Hainesport since 2004, but her family moved to Mount Holly in 1966.  Prior to becoming an attorney, she worked in the insurance claims industry. In her last position, she was a field examiner with 4 regional reporting to her on their catastrophic claims -Woodland Hills, Ca, Denver, CO, Des Moines, IA and Raleigh, NC. During that period of time—mid-1990s—there was an explosion of claims involving sexual harassment and discrimination. Thus. she has had exposure to that area of the law for over 20 years.  In 1998, she graduated Rutgers School of law and became licensed to practice.  Her areas of practice include construction defects, employment law, workers compensation, personal injury and insurance coverage matters.

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