Courts in Paterson NJ called “toxic hive” for female workers

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PATERSON — Manuel Quiles, who was fired from Paterson Magistrates’ Court last March, has been accused of sexual harassment by two clerks he supervises.

The two women – Carolina Hernandez and Sayuris Del Rosario – claimed Quiles tried to kiss them as he pulled down their COVID-19 masks in the court offices. One of the women said Quiles called her into his office and put his hand on her breast, then grabbed her hand and forced her to touch “his privates.”

Quiles called the allegations against him “insane.”

“I swear to God, I swear to God I’ve never done anything to respect anyone,” Quiles said in an interview Tuesday morning. “I have always treated the women in the office with the utmost respect.”

The women made those allegations in separate lawsuits filed in New Jersey Superior Court late Monday afternoon, using the same law firm in Jersey City, Matsikoudis and Fanciullo.

“That Quiles’ predatory behavior was allowed to smolder unchecked for so long at the court is hardly a surprise: the court was a toxic hive for female workers,” the two complaints said.

The women also alleged in their lawsuits that “a senior court official” — someone other than Quiles — had an extramarital affair with a court clerk he allegedly singled out “over far more qualified applicants” for a lucrative promotion earlier this year. The lawsuits did not name the senior official or the employee who received the promotion.

Previous coverage from Paterson Press:The Paterson court official has taken paid leave pending the investigation

In April 2021, the city approved a $50,000 settlement in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by then-City Court Clerk Noelia Batista against city attorney Albert Asphaltal.

Mayor Andre Sayegh did not respond when asked by a reporter on Tuesday what steps his administration had taken to address the sexual harassment complaints in the city court.

Quiles began working for Paterson in 2002 and earned $91,014 when he was placed on paid leave last winter while allegations against him were being investigated. He was fired weeks later, officials said.

Quiles said he would not jeopardize his 36-year marriage. He said he contacted his wife Tuesday morning after a news reporter asked him for comment on the allegations.

“She said, ‘Relax, don’t stress,'” Quiles said. “I said, ‘Don’t stress? Those are false accusations.’”

Hernandez’s lawsuit said she was working at a restaurant that Quiles frequented a few years ago when he asked for her resume and suggested they have dinner to discuss a possible new job with the city court.

“But when she got to the restaurant, it quickly became clear that the ‘dinner’ wasn’t a professional meeting,” she says. “Instead of talking about work, Quiles drank several glasses of wine, told Carolina she looked ‘beautiful,’ and upon learning that it was around her birthday, the waiter had Carolina brought out a small cake to celebrate.”

Hernandez accepted the job in court despite Quiles’ “strange behavior” because the job presented a good opportunity, the lawsuit said. She was hired as a data collector in December 2017, and her main job is processing parking tickets, she said in her complaint.

Quiles admitted to helping Hernandez get the court job. He said he wanted to help her and advised her to learn English. “I said to her, ‘Learn English and I’ll get you on board,'” he recalls.

Hernandez said in her lawsuit that when Quiles made his first advances to her, she told him she had a boyfriend and pointed out that Quiles was married to a family. She said Quiles didn’t take no for an answer and picked her up at his office. This incident, she claimed, caused her so much stress that she took a six-month leave of absence.

Finally, Hernandez said in her complaint, she participated in an investigation into Quiles that led to his termination.

Del Rosario, meanwhile, said in her lawsuit that Quiles invited her to dinner shortly after she began working at the city court in 2018. She said she declined and told her manager she was married.

“Qules didn’t stop, however,” Del Rosario said in her lawsuit. “He frequently – and inappropriately – commented on the plaintiff’s appearance and demanded proof that she was married when she attempted to take bereavement leave when her father-in-law died.

“Sayuris complained to a supervisor about Quiles, but was told, ‘He’s just like that,’ and he’d made sexual advances towards other female court officials,” the lawsuit continued. “As a result, no one in court stopped Quiles, and the plaintiff was forced to endure his behavior — and an intolerable work environment — for years.”

Del Rosario said the issue reached “despicable” new depths early last January when Quiles allegedly tried to give her a New Year’s kiss behind closed doors in his office. She said she turned her head and he kissed her on the cheek. In the lawsuit, Quiles told Del Rosario that he had dreams and fantasies about her.

Quiles said Tuesday that when he kissed Del Rosario, he simply wished his employee a Happy New Year.

“I kissed her on the cheek,” he said. “There was nothing sexual about it.”

Joe Malinconico is Editor of Paterson Press.

Email: [email protected]