Sebrivious Scott was hired by the City of Newark through a prisoner reentry program, but unlike her male counterparts, the Baraka administration allegedly denied her a full-time position after she rejected sexual advances from a supervisor, according to a lawsuit.
Prisoner reentry programs are an essential tool for lowering the recidivism rate in New Jersey, but they’re also ripe for politics, corruption, and misconduct – with Jersey City being a prime example of all three (ex-Gov. Jim McGreevey, ex-JCBOE Pres. Sudhan Thomas, and political operative Eugene McKnight).
Now a woman hired by the City of Newark through a reentry program claims she was denied full-time employment for rejecting sexual advances from a supervisor, according to a lawsuit filed in Essex County Superior Court.
Of note, the 7-count suit alleges multiple violations of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination – including gender discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. Both the City of Newark’s press office and Scott’s attorney, Luretha M. Stribling, did not respond to emails requesting comment on the lawsuit.
Sebrivious Scott hired by Newark via prisoner reentry program, eventually applies for full-time employment
Per details from the complaint, Sebrivious Scott was initially hired in April 2016, for a six-month period, and was assigned to do secretarial work in the reentry office. Due to the nature of that work, Scott says she became familiar with many of the predominately male participants involved with the program.
In October 2016, after six months had passed, Scott was reassigned to the Parks and Grounds Department because it was supposedly a conflict for her to continue working in the reentry office, according to the lawsuit.
Additionally, Scott states that on October 4, 2016, she completed a Request for Personnel Action/New Hire and submitted the document to Talib Aquil – the director of the Newark Department of Public Works (DPW) at times relevant to the lawsuit.
Parks and Grounds manager accused of sexual harassment
In the Parks and Grounds Dept., Scott worked as an office assistant to Richard Kirkland – the department’s manager. Initially, Scott and Kirkland “had a decent working relationship,” and he was “supportive” of her application to be made full-time at the City of Newark, according to the complaint.
However, after a few months, Scott alleges that Kirkland subjected her to acts of a sexual nature. Specifically, Kirkland is accused of touching Scott’s breasts, displaying sex acts on a computer monitor to her, and making unsolicited comments about her body.
Furthermore, Scott states that she spoke with Amiri Baraka, Jr., Mayor Ras Baraka’s chief of staff and brother, about her accusations against Kirkland. The lawsuit claims Baraka, Jr. informed Scott there was not going to be any steps taken to address her complaints, and allegedly said “Don’t be coming here complaining about discrimination. You should be happy you have a job.”
Out of the office, off to the Road Crew
On top of speaking with Baraka, Jr., Scott says she informed a man identified as Paul Schaffe, a field supervisor in the Parks and Grounds Dept., about Kirkland’s alleged sexual harassment. According to the complaint, Schaffe intervened on her behalf by confronting Kirkland and telling him she was not going to have sex with anyone as a condition to obtain full-time employment.
Due to the department’s road crew dealing with a manpower shortage at the time, and Scott’s experience doing work such as mowing lawns and cutting shrubbery, she was taken out of the office to work in the field, per the lawsuit.
Inquiries about processing of full-time application ignored, Sebrivious Scott eventually fired
Throughout all of the drama, from the period of October 16, 2016, through December 2017, Scott claims her inquiries about the processing of her full-time application were essentially ignored by Kirkland, then-DPW Director Aquil, and even Mayor Baraka (claiming she attempted to set up a meeting and address her pending paperwork, but was unsuccessful).
In addition to having her inquiries ignored, Aquil allegedly refused to pay Scott for all the time she worked – routinely paying her for 70 hours, instead of 80 hours, over a two-week pay period. As well, the lawsuit accuses Aquil of 1) sending emails about Scott to other employees where she was discussed in an unfavorable way and 2) changing her paperwork to reflect that her application was for part-time work.
Moreover, the complaint states that numerous men hired through the reentry program obtained full-time positions upon completing the program as she waited.
Eventually Scott was out of work for medical reasons from January 2018 to March 2018, according to the lawsuit. Upon returning to work, her employment status remained in limbo as she was still not made full-time and was working in a seasonal status.
Of interest, Scott claims that an unnamed fellow employee made an inquiry with city officials about why she had not been made full-time. The fellow employee was supposedly told the issue with Scott was that she would not agree to have sex with male employees and that it was commonly known at City Hall.
By April 2018, Scott filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging gender discrimination. On February 4, 2019, the EEOC issued a Right to Sue letter to Scott, per details from the complaint.
Specifically, it’s stated on April 27, 2018, the Charge of Discrimination was completed and the Baraka administration was served; by June 2018, Scott was taken out of work for stress. Soon thereafter, in August 2018, she learned from a representative of the Civil Service Commission that she had been terminated from her position, according to the lawsuit.
Of note, a NorthJersey.com report from July 30, 2018, states that Sebrivious Scott signed up for NJBuild, a pre-apprenticeship training program from the New Jersey Reentry Corporation. It’s unclear whether that program would’ve conflicted with Scott’s job with the City of Newark.
Finally, Scott is demanding a jury trial and is “seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, consequential damages, damages for emotional distress, pain and suffering in the past, now and for the foreseeable future, interest, costs of suit, attorney fees and such other further relief that the Court may deem to be equitable and proper.”
Publisher’s Note: Sebrivious Scott’s lawsuit was filed on April 15, 2020. This article was updated at 11:50 PM on June 18, 2020, to reflect that Aquil was Newark DPW director at times relevant to the lawsuit.