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Janice Keels joined the Passaic municipal payroll as a judiciary clerk in 1999. Almost immediately, her supervisor noted that she had poor interpersonal skills. For example, Keels complained in May 2000 about a co-worker, saying she would hit her if she had to, and repeating, “I’ll hit her.”

Over the next few months, Keels’ supervisors disciplined her for numerous performance issues, including threatening behavior, insubordination and leaving work without permission.

In September 2000, Keels took FMLA leave to seek psychological treatment. The city denied her request for an FMLA leave extension, citing budget and staffing constraints, so Keels returned. So did her performance problems.

In May 2001, while a group of employees were talking about a school shooting, Keels reportedly said, “If I had a gun, I’d use it on some people around here.” A supervisor who investigated the incident noted that Keels’ behavior at the time was erratic and hostile. The city disciplined Keels for the comment.

In November 2002 in the presence of a client and numerous co-workers, Keels approached senior probation officer Carolyn Harrison and kissed her loudly on the lips.

Harrison filed a sexual harassment complaint. Keels told Passaic’s EEO officer that Harrison walked into her and their lips touched.

In 2003, following several investigations, the city terminated Keels for insubordination, sexual harassment and conduct unbecoming a public employee. Keels filed a race, gender and disability discrimination lawsuit.

The court didn’t buy Keels’ story and ruled in the city’s favor. “No rational juror could conclude that defendants failed to promote plaintiff or terminated plaintiff based on her race, sex, color, nationality or disability,” the court ruled.

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