NJ Transit spent more than $12M on discrimination settlements

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New Jersey Transit has spent more than $12 million to settle discrimination lawsuits over the last six years, according to documents obtained by News 12 New Jersey. NJ Transit also faced 50 discrimination lawsuits.

Princeton employment attorney Ravi Sattiraju is currently handling one of the racial discrimination lawsuits made against the agency.

“What’s a little interesting here, especially given that it’s a public agency, is how frequent this has happened. Most companies when they have this happen once or twice, they’re going to crack down and say ‘Look this isn’t what we want to do,’” Sattiraju says.

Sattiraju says that while the Murphy administration has pledged to change the culture at NJ Transit, the agency is still pursuing a costly legal defense against pending discrimination and retaliation cases. He says that the agency could settle for less than what it's spending now in court.

“[NJ Transit’s] continuing to take this very aggressive litigation stance on issues of retaliation and discrimination that happened years before,” he says. “That’s costing taxpayer money and the litigation tactics that are being used are very aggressive.”

NJ Transit leaders faced questions by state officials a few weeks ago over rampant delays and cancellations. During the meeting, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg brought up the amount spent on settlements while the agency was facing a funding crisis.

The senator says that she is encouraged that the agency is replacing its human resources director who presided over the settlements.

“It’s taxpayer money. It’s money that should be going into buses and trains and commuters,” Weinberg says.

Weinberg says that she wants to see her New Jersey Transit reform bill passed this fall. The bill would in part bring discrimination claims out into the open in front of the board.

“They should be the first line of defense in terms of curing this kind of culture,” she says.

A spokesperson for New Jersey Transit says in a statement, “We thoroughly investigate each claim while fostering a corporate culture where employees can report such instances.  There is no tolerance for harassment of any kind in the workplace. The ideals of diversity and equal opportunity are hallmarks of Gov. [Phil] Murphy's administration which we have and will continue to vigorously protect."

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