Lyndhurst Board of Education sued for hostile work environment

On June 16, Tracey Marinelli, the Superintendent of Schools sent out a notification of claim to the Lyndhurst Board of Education alleging hostile work environment. Marinelli is seeking seeks her merit pay bonus for this year and $2.5 million in damages.

As per the notice, Marinelli alleges that the Board created a hostile environment for her to work. She states that the Board interfered with her work including asking her to complete various reports which inhibited her from completing her daily tasks. She further states that the Board would also interrupt her while she would present the reports at the meetings. It is also alleged that she is suffering from anxiety, physical and emotional trauma, and depression. Further, the notice states that she “suffered and continues to suffer, humiliation, embarrassment, mental and emotional distress, discomfort and difficulty sleeping.” Despite the allegations, the notice does not specify the names of any members of the Board of Education.

Marinelli had replaced Joe Abate, the then Superintendent and Business Administrator five years ago in Lyndhurst. However, she resigned this April 30, accepting a superintendent/principal position in the Little Falls School District. Her resignation states that “professional circumstances and conditions” factored her decision.

According to Carmine Alampi, her attorney, a response letter sent by the Board ordered her not to return to work, which she followed. Alampi eventually arranged for Marinelli to retrieve her personal belongings from her office. As per the Board Attorney Rich DiLascio, Marinelli vacated her office on May 6 and has not been using any sick or vacation time.

Based on Marinelli’s existing contract, the Board of Education has the opportunity to award her approximately $23,467 in merit bonuses annually. This reflects the merit pay cap at 14.99 percent of her $157,500 salary established by law.

However, DiLascio and Business Administrator David DiPisa pointed out that in 2014, Marinelli was awarded $7,000 in merit pay, which was the full 14.99 percent in merit pay in June 2013. There was no specific amount outlined in the board’s resolution. Prior to that, Marinelli had had been awarded two merit payments – $17,500 on April 5, 2012 and $27,641 on July 13, 2012. A South Bergenite review further found that while the Board maintained the district was given permission to make two payments in one year as a result of an award not made the previous year, a lack of documentation from Lyndhurst and the Department of Education, suggested the county and state were unaware of the second payment in 2012, and likely did not give permission.

Marinelli’s current contract was renewed in July 2013 and is not set to expire until July 2018. In the meantime, Alampi has announced that Marinelli is still a Lyndhurst employee. Marinelli shall be available to do whatever asked of her, which provided for completion of business from home.

The Board in the meantime hired an interim superintendent, James Carino, on May 18, during a special meeting.

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