After seven years of allegedly suffering constant harassment as well as verbal and physical abuse, School Board 8’s long-time secretary won a $100,000 discrimination settlement with the Board of Education for their lack of disciplining Dennis Coleman. The controversial school board member at the center of the harassment case still remains on the board.
Two years after the lawsuit was filed and weeks before the trial was to begin, Board of Ed officials agreed to settle and pay Maureen Grogan $100,000. Grogan filed a lawsuit against the Board of Ed, former Chancellor Rudy Crew and board members Dennis Coleman and Rose Foley. The long-time secretary claimed that Crew and the Board of Ed did nothing to discipline Coleman after he repeatedly harassed her.
“Think of how many books and blackboards and pencils the Board of Ed could have bought with $100,000,” said Grogan’s attorney Joseph Maya of Maya and Associates, a law firm which specializes in employment discrimination lawsuits. During the course of the pre-trial hearings, Coleman’s counterclaims of slander were thrown out. However, despite the settlement over the way he allegedly harassed his employee over a seven-year period, Coleman remains on the school board. Calls made to him were not returned. Board of Ed officials also did not return the News’ calls.
In the suit, Grogan claimed that she had been the target of harassment and discrimination when she refused to lie in an investigation into age discrimination. Coleman allegedly refused to hire a woman for a position with the school board because she was too old. Grogan told investigators this and was allegedly intimidated from that point on.
According to the lawsuit, in October 1992, Coleman called Grogan at her home and demanded that she recant statements she made to an agent of the Office of Special Investigations. The school board member allegedly threatened Grogan with losing her job with her husband out of work at the time and her two children in college.
Grogan told the Investigations agent about the alleged threats and thereafter was subjected to a daily hostile work environment which included being ignored, shunned and given contradictory instructions and work-related directions. She was also allegedly threatened with innuendoes regarding the timing of her pension vesting. The suit also claimed that Coleman would repeatedly yell at her over trivial matters such as his mail.
As a result, Grogan said she was forced to see a psychiatrist because of the stress placed upon her. She also took an extended leave in 1993. When she returned, Grogan found that most of her work, which included sensitive confidential material was turned over to a temporary office worker who was not a Board of Ed employee and was not qualified to handle confidential material.
Afterward, Grogan claims Coleman continuously made disparaging comments about her appearance, her intelligence and her ability to understand school board rules and regulations. During one school board meeting in December 1994, Coleman allegedly accused Grogan of discrimination and of being a member of the mafia. Grogan countered by filing a formal complaint alleging that Coleman was discriminating against her and was harassing her. After a review, no action was taken by the Board of Ed.
Grogan claims that after this incident Coleman began to publicly humiliate her at every school board meeting. The secretary wrote a letter to Crew’s office but no action was taken. Then in October 1996, Coleman assaulted Grogan during a heated exchange at a school board meeting. After a review of the matter, Crew scolded Coleman’s actions but did not discipline him.
Grogan was continuously harassed during meetings and on a daily basis until she quit from the strain in June 1999. She then filed a lawsuit against the parties.
By Daniel Gesslein
The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County. Should you have any questions about workplace discrimination or harassment or any other employment law matter or to schedule a consultation, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut, by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.