Bergen County Reaches $1M Settlement in Case Linking Firings to Politics
Taken from The New Jersey Law Journal, February 21, 2018
Bergen County has agreed to pay just over $1 million to settle a federal civil rights suit by eight county employees who claimed they lost their jobs for supporting the opponent of County Executive James Tedesco III.
The settlement of $1,003,200, signed by Tedesco on Tuesday, provides payouts ranging from $25,000 to $146,000 to the eight fired workers. Three of the plaintiffs, who continued to work for the county in lower-paying jobs after the layoffs, were restored to their former pay levels. The settlement also provides $202,600 in legal fees and costs to Brach Eichler, the firm that represented the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs claimed in their December 2015 suit that their First Amendment rights to freedom of political association were violated when Tedesco undertook a purge of employees who supported Republican incumbent Kathleen Donovan in the 2014 general election. After defeating Donovan and taking office in January 2015, Tedesco, a Democrat, terminated 21 county employees who had either been open supporters of Donovan or nonsupporters of Tedesco. Tedesco maintained that the layoffs were needed for reasons of economy and efficiency, but the plaintiffs claimed that was a pretext given that the county hired nearly 600 new employees the same year.