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Court upholds N.J. sexual harassment settlement

By Bryan Cohen | Jan 17, 2013

TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced Tuesday an appellate panel upheld the legal validity of a $75,000 sexual harassment case settlement with a South Jersey restaurant owner.

In 2011, the Division on Civil Rights negotiated a settlement with Ronald Ford Jr., the owner of the downtown Camden restaurant and coffee shop City Coffee. A $75,000 agreement reached with Ford was meant to resolve allegations that Ford sexually harassed multiple female employees over a period of years.

Under the terms of the settlement negotiated by Ford's attorney, Ford was required to pay $15,000 to the state and provide training to all his employees on harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Additionally, $60,000 of the settlement payout was suspended and would be vacated after three years unless Ford failed to live up to all terms of the agreement. Ford admitted no wrongdoing in the agreement.

While Ford was copied on the settlement in June 2011 and Ford's attorney asked that the case be marked as settled, Ford refused to sign the final consent judgment. The DCR petitioned Superior Court Judge Robert Millenky to enforce the settlement and the judge granted the request.

Ford subsequently challenged Millenky's ruling before the Appellate Division. The panel upheld the enforcement of the agreement on Jan. 4. The panel said that it is immaterial that Ford did not sign the agreement and he is bound as a matter of law by the terms of the consent judgment.

The settlement resolved a five-count complaint filed against Ford and City Coffee in 2007.

Ford allegedly subjected six female employees to lewd comments, unwanted touching, invitations to pose for photographs nude or in revealing clothing, and requests for sexual favors. He also allegedly terminated one of the employees after she reported his alleged harassment to police.

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