Montclair High School
A Montclair High School teacher has filed a lawsuit against the school, another teacher, and the district. IMAGE COURTESY PIXABAY

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

A Montclair High School math teacher has filed a lawsuit against the school, another math teacher and the district, alleging that she was subjected to harassment and a hostile work environment.

Marleen Awad filed the suit in Essex County Superior Court in January. In the complaint, Awad alleges that she was subjected to intimidating behavior by math teacher Dana Rubin. Both are still listed as Montclair High School math teachers in the staff directory.

The suit, filed by attorney Margaret Korgul, alleges negligent hiring/retention, negligent supervision and training, hostile work environment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence and recklessness.

Attorney Suzanne Marasco, on behalf of the district and Rubin, filed an answer to Awad’s complaint in February, denying the allegations. Both parties have requested a jury trial in the matter.

The complaint states that on April 27, 2018, Rubin approached Awad to discuss lesson plan entries into the district’s Genesis system. “While discussing the issue, defendant Rubin in a threatening manner put his hand in plaintiff’s face, kept shoving his hand and started yelling, ‘you do not know what you are talking about,’” according to the suit.

The complaint states that school officials ordered Rubin to stay away from Awad, but the harassment allegedly continued. The complaint alleges that Rubin would go into the school’s math room and stare at Awad for prolonged periods of time, including on at least one occasion in June 2018 while Awad was in the room working with a student. Officials promised that Rubin would be prohibited from using the math room, but it never occurred, according to the complaint.

“Said hostile working environment would not have occurred, but for plaintiff’s gender and was severe and pervasive enough to make any reasonable woman believe that her conditions of employment were altered and the working environment was hostile or abusive,” the complaint states. “Said hostile working environment included, but was not limited to the following egregious acts by Rubin, shoving into plaintiff, slamming his body against plaintiff, staring at plaintiff, laughing at her, calling her a ‘liar,’ invading plaintiff’s personal space.”

The complaint states that in October 2018, the interim principal requested that Awad accept a face-to-face apology. The complaint also states that it took a month to schedule a meeting with the principal to discuss the matter, in spite of numerous attempts on Awad’s part to schedule a meeting.

The interim principal was not identified by name in the complaint. Terry Trigg-Scales served as Montclair High School’s interim principal for the early part of the 2018-2019 school year, until Anthony Grosso was appointed as principal in October 2019.

The case was directed to go to mediation on July 13, but no further action on the case has been recorded since that time, according to the courts.

The complaint asks that Awad be awarded money damages for economic losses including past and future salary and fringe benefits, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees. The complaint also calls on the school district to “take such affirmative steps as are necessary to ensure that these unlawful employment practices are eliminated from its workplace.”

School records indicated that Awad took four leaves of absence in October 2018 and in January, February and April of this year.