New Jersey Problem Gambling NPO Wants Race Discrimination Suit Tossed

Posted on: January 3, 2024, 05:04h. 

Last updated on: January 17, 2024, 12:31h.

Lawyers for the Council of Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCG) have asked a judge to toss a racial discrimination suit brought by a former executive director.

Council of Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Neva Pryor, Fred Hogan
Neva Pryor, above, claims CCG president Fred Hogan made a racist comment toward her. The nonprofit’s lawyers argue one comment wasn’t enough to make the working environment hostile or abusive. (Image: Insider NJ)

Plaintiff Neva Pryor, who is African American, sued the Hamilton, NJ-based nonprofit in April 2022 after the organization declined to renew her contract. She claims this was in retaliation for her registering a race discrimination complaint against CCG President Fred Hogan.

Pryor has an impressive background in the field of mental health and addiction, especially disordered gambling, according to the lawsuit.

Pryor claimed Hogan, who is white, began speaking to her in a “rude and condescending manner” shortly after he became president in 2016, a tone she said he did not adopt with other Caucasian workers.

Hogan is a former investigator for the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender (NJOPD). He was instrumental in securing the exoneration of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, an African American boxer wrongly convicted of murder in 1966.

‘Racist Comment’

On or about Dec. 11, 2018, during the CCG Christmas party, Pryor politely asked Hogan to excuse her as she passed by him to greet someone. Hogan allegedly responded, “Don’t let me get Black with you.”

The plaintiff was “shocked by the racist comment” and immediately reported it to the Human Resources manager. But the CCG failed to investigate, according to the lawsuit.

Afterward, Hogan’s “discriminatory conduct towards Plaintiff intensified,” which included increased micromanagement and inappropriate involvement in daily operations, the lawsuit claims. He also forbade her from communicating with any other members of the board, despite her duties requiring that she work in partnership with the board.

On Feb. 15, 2021, Pryor registered a complaint of race discrimination with the vice president of the board. Her employment was terminated around five months later.

Counter Allegations

In a motion for summary judgment filed last week, lawyers for CCG noted that the organization had investigated the plaintiff’s February 2021 complaint. Ironically, it was during this investigation that evidence of the plaintiff’s alleged improper conduct surfaced that led to her dismissal.

This involved bullying other people and employees, using abusive language toward employees and other individuals, and referring to an employee, “Ken,” now retired, as a “motherfucker,” according to CCG’s filing.

The investigation concluded she had “engaged in a myriad of improper/inappropriate conduct, including … breaching ethics … engaging in conduct unbecoming by using inappropriate language, vulgar expressions and name calling … and exhibiting inadequate leadership during wellness meetings.”

Moreover, Pryor admitted much of this conduct at a CCG subcommittee meeting to discuss the investigation and also at a deposition related to her lawsuit, according to court filings.

Multiple Raises

CCG lawyers claimed Pryor had suffered “no adverse employment actions” because of her alleged discriminatory treatment. On the contrary, during her employment, Pryor received multiple raises and positive performance reviews,” according to the CCG filing.

In addition, most of the conduct that plaintiff alleges she was subjected to – being spoken to in a particular manner being the most notable example – is not race-based conduct,” CCG lawyers argued.

“Further, even if one were to assume that Hogan made one race-based comment to Pryor in December 2018, this is clearly insufficient to constitute behavior so severe/pervasive as to alter the conditions of employment or render the working environment hostile or abusive,” they claimed.

A ruling is expected in the coming weeks.