NJ Town Tax Collector's Office Accused of Abusing Worker With 'Wall of Shame'

PHOTO: A container similar to the one in this product page is shown in an exhibit filed with Superior Court of New Jersey in Ocean County.PlayAmazon
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At her first day of work, a New Jersey woman says her boss showed her a "Wall of Shame" with a funerary urn filled with "ashes of problem employees." She claims that was her first clue that she might have an abusive employer, according to the lawsuit.

Michelle Ruppert, of Forked River in Ocean County, N.J., is a clerk in the Borough of Point Pleasant's Office of the Tax Collector. She is suing the borough, its tax collector's office and her boss for compensatory and punitive damages for a hostile workplace, discrimination, negligence and emotional distress, according to her suit filed last week in the Superior Court of Ocean County.

Borough Administrator David Maffei and tax collector Bernadine Pearce, Ruppert's boss, declined to comment to ABCnews.com, citing the pending litigation.

Pearce is accused of showing Ruppert, 46, her "Wall of Shame" on a cabinet in the main office "in a manner resembling the way Adolf Hitler treated the disabled and the Jews during the Holocaust," with "various name plates of the employees who were 'exterminated'" or fired by her, the lawsuit stated, or "quit their jobs because of her."

“No reasonable person would find despicable conduct such as that acceptable,” said Ruppert’s attorney Rosemarie Arnold of the “Wall of Shame” and funerary urn, a photo of which is shown as an exhibit in the lawsuit. “That should not be allowed in a workplace.”

Arnold said her client has been a clerk in the office for about three years and continues to work there.

Pearce "opined that all personnel of her office should be 'perfect humans,' as she believed she was," the lawsuit stated.

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Pearce is accused of making "outrageous comments" that are "too numerous to list," including, "To people like you, 2+4 must equal 8," intending to "shame and harass" Ruppert, and calling her a "waste as a human being," the suit states.

Pearce also "slammed" her fists and objects in front of Ruppert in a "hostile and volatile manner," the lawsuit states. Pearce "engaged in a severe and pervasive pattern of mentally abusive and offensive behavior directed at plaintiff, who suffered from a disability, which conduct was designed to, among other things, punish plaintiff for being disabled and cause plaintiff severe emotional distress," the lawsuit states.

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The lawsuit also alleges that Pearce "instructed and/or condoned her daughter, Eileen, to give [Ruppert] the middle finger at work and yelled at [her] in a hostile and volatile manner that she was a 'mess up' of a person and that she should just 'quit her job.'"

Ruppert alleges she developed "significant stress and anxiety," the lawsuit states. In response, Ruppert says she took sick leave for medical and psychiatric treatment, and upon returning, she found her workspace had been relocated so that she would face the Wall of Shame, which had her name below it.