School District Pays Sexual Harassment Suit Settlement

When the North Hunterdon-Voorhees school district was hit with a sexual harassment suit filed by two former female bus drivers for the district, what did they do? They agreed to pay and settle the complaint.

The school district has agreed to pay a total amount of $302,000 to Bonnie Haydu and Bernice Rude who filed a sexual harassment complaint alleging that they were sexually harassed by a co-worker “almost immediately” after they were hired in 2006. Both women claim that they made complaints to the transportation coordinator and the district’s affirmative action officer at the time of the harassment and nothing was done.

Allegations including that co-worker Donald Hockenberry held a heavy electrical cord between his legs and made rude comments to the women as well as regularly asked personal questions about the women’s sex lives and more than once touched Haydu’s legs and buttocks.

The initial complaint alleges that the administrators were aware of the behavior and failed to discipline Hockenberry or to correct the hostile work environment this behavior caused. Because a settlement was reached none of the allegations were proven or disproven and of course there is no admission of liability on the part of the school board.

Both women have since left the school district and while there are no other details available is has been reported by a school board spokeswoman that Hockenberry no longer works within the school district either. While a settlement is usually found agreeable in situations such as this, many women feel the need for the responsible party to admit wrongdoing, and failure to protect employees while settlements leave the impression that a compromise was reached without actually addressing the issues.