Almost Unbelievable Tale of New York Workplace Harassment, Retaliation, and Overtime Violations

Cases involving racial harassment and retaliation are often nuanced.

There are some legal subtleties to this case. But other matters contain so many stark and disturbing details that they almost seem made up. As you learn what happen, you wonder “how on Earth could this have happened and lasted as long as it did?”
Joseph & Kirschenbaum recently brought an action in United States District Court on behalf of a counselor at a New York City rehabilitation facility. What our plaintiff suffered is astonishing, given that these events occurred in the 21st century. Here is a brief catalog of some (not even close to all!) of what our client alleges he went through at his job:

• The Plaintiff, who is Muslim and black, endured a ceaseless barrage of verbal attacks against his religion. His boss, for instance, told him “Islam is a hate religion for terrorists” and “look at what they did to the World Trade Center.” In another situation, our client had to sit through a joke about “a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim” that ended with a punch line, in which the Muslim committed a horrendous act of violence.
• Our client wanted to pray five times a day, per Islamic tradition, but he couldn’t do so because of his job’s responsibilities. His supervisors meanly and crudely dismissed his complaints, saying in effect it’s not our problem that you can’t pray.
• Our client repeatedly heard the word “ni**er” at work — often directed at himself. In one incident, the Defendant announced “ni**ers are crazy.” Another time, he said “I know who is the real ni**er are and the fake ni**er are” [sic].
• Here’s another disturbing detail. At one point, his supervisor asked two African American students to stand on either side of our client; then he smirked: “Now we have an oreo.”
• The Defendant did not limit himself to racial and religious vitriol — he had plenty of sexist things to say, as well. For instance, he once said a student was “sucking on your mother’s t*t.” Another time, he asked a group of male students whether they were “still sucking on the t*ttie.” During a staff meeting, he called women “b***hes and whores.”

If one individual had been solely responsible for the filthy talk and bad behavior, perhaps this case wouldn’t be so upsetting. But other people in the organization abetted what was going on.

When our client complained to a second supervisor about the inappropriate, discriminatory and offensive actions, Human Resources agreed to meet with him. But instead of sympathy and positive action, HR accused our client of being “insubordinate.” His supervisor’s behavior did not change after the meeting. In fact, the supervisor began to retaliate against our client, chastising him for no good reason and threatening to fire him.

Our client then went to the headquarters of this organization and filed a second written complaint. This action prompted a supposed internal “investigation” (which did nothing). The client was given an opportunity to transfer to a different facility, where he would still be working under the supervision of one of the bosses who had abetted the nasty behavior.

In addition to all of these difficulties, the organization tasked our client with supervising 42 students all by himself. Legally, the maximum number he should have been supervising was 8!

This obligation put him in between a rock and a hard place. It effectively forced him to work illegally and under hostile conditions or leave his job. He left.

Also, our client was not fairly compensated for the hours he worked. His former supervisor, who was in charge of approving the overtime, ignored or rejected his complaints about missing hours. He also was promised a retroactive increase in salary, which he never received.

Individually, any of these allegations would be pretty disturbing to most people. Collectively, they signify a pathological problem with this institution.

Hopefully, our client will find justice and obtain fair compensation. Hopefully, his story can help other people out there who have experienced similar harassment and discrimination.

If you’ve also been badly treated in your workplace, please know that help is out there. Get in touch with the experienced, reputable, and highly ethical team at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP today to schedule a free consultation: Call us at (212) 688-5640 or write to info@jhllp.com.