The New Lisbon Developmental Center (“NLDC”), run by the state of New Jersey, is home to more than 450 developmentally disabled residents. These residents live in cottages in rural Pemberton Township. NLDC, established in 1914, is run by the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
Shontrell Coleman worked at NLDC for 15 years as a cottage training technician when a new employee entered the picture in 2016. That employee, Robert Kardio, started sexually harassing Coleman and making advances, according to a lawsuit she filed two years later. The state recently settled Coleman’s claim for $150,000.
Harassment Started Immediately
According to Coleman’s lawsuit, Kardio’s harassment of her began almost at once. He subjected her to unwelcome comments and advances, telling her at one point she could “use him any way she wants.” Coleman reported Kardio’s behavior to her supervisor on various occasions, but nothing was done.
In February 2017, she was cornered in the women’s break room by Kardio, who allegedly told her she could not leave unless she kissed him. Coleman got out when another worker entered the room.
She complained to her supervisor again, and he told her to report the incident to his boss. That boss, apparently aware of Kardio’s reputation, said she should bring the matter up with his boss, a woman named Hope Cheeks. Cheeks, who was also aware of Kardio’s alleged behavior, told Coleman she would speak with him. The next day, Kardio allegedly touched Coleman inappropriately.
After speaking with him, Cheeks told Coleman that Kardio admitted his behavior, but there was nothing she could do rather than change his working location or his shift. Cheeks did neither.
New Jersey EEOC Complaint
At that point, Coleman filed a complaint with the state’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). After the filing of the complaint, Kardio was moved to a building across the street from where Coleman worked. However, that did not end the matter, and Kardio allegedly continued to harass Coleman for three more months. She says he had a reputation for sexually harassing women, and that the state’s response was simply moving home around so he could “sexually harass his next victim.”
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