Brennan Amends Lawsuit Against State

Katie Brennan on Wednesday amended her lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County, against the State of New Jersey and Al Alvarez, who she has accused of sexual assault, to add a claim of defamation against Alvarez and for declaratory judgment for changes to the State’s anti-harassment policy.

The amended lawsuit also alleges that confidentiality provisions in the State’s anti-harassment policy violate the Law Against Discrimination’s non-disclosure provisions that were signed into law earlier this week, and that the State has retaliated against Brennan by unilaterally closing her complaint, previously opened by the State’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action (“EEO/AA”), in response to her lawsuit.

The amended lawsuit alleges an additional claim against Alvarez in response to defamatory statements it alleges he made to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, New Jersey Legislative Select Oversight Committee, media and other persons.

The lawsuit continues to seek emergent relief to change New Jersey’s policies and practices concerning the State’s conduct of confidential workplace investigations. Specifically, Brennan seeks to void as a matter of public policy the “strict confidentiality directive” in the New Jersey State Policy Prohibiting Discrimination in the Workplace under legislation Gov. Murphy signed into law on March 18, 2019. The new non-disclosure agreements (“NDA”) law bars provisions in any employment agreement or contract “which has the purpose or effect of concealing the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment….” Senate Bill S121/Assembly Bill A1242, which took immediate effect on March 18, 2019, makes NDAs in employment contracts and settlement agreements in cases involving discrimination, retaliation or harassment – including sexual assault and sexual harassment – unenforceable against employees.

The amended lawsuit also alleges that the proposed revisions to the state policy announced by the governor on February 5, 2019 and currently available on the state website are not the same revisions that were approved by the Civil Service Commission and published in the New Jersey Register. The lawsuit alleges that the changes to the Strict Confidentiality Directive that would require discipline to any employee breaches confidentiality of harassment claims were not announced to the public in the February 5, 2019 press releases.

“Not only do we believe that the NDA bill renders the State’s Strict Confidentiality Directive void as a matter of law, we amend Ms. Brennan’s complaint today because proposed revisions to the State Policy are anything but survivor-centric,” said Brennan attorney Katy McClure of Smith Eibeler, LLC.  “If the proposals are implemented, EEO/AA officers will now be required to issue discipline, up to and including termination, if employees exercise their constitutional and statutory right to not be silenced. The State’s Strict Confidentiality Directive is a clear violation of the NDA bill signed into law earlier this week.”

Today’s amended complaint continues Brennan’s formal civil complaint for assault and battery against Alvarez arising from the events of April 8, 2017.

Alvarez plans to file suit against Brennan, according to this exclusive interview with NJ.com, saying that ‘her inaccurate statements are what led to the situation that we’re in today,” he said. “She created the political firestorm that we’re living in right now. That I’m living in right now’.  Alvarez also stated that ‘I expect to file a robust pleading where I will further pursue justice in this case for myself.’

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