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Discrimination - Verdict in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of US$550,000

Case Name:Alida Mattos v. City of New York, Peter Jenik, and James Sheehan
Case Number:13-cv-777 (MGC)
Verdict Date:2014-10-28
Outcome TypeSettlement
Court:U.S. District Court, Southern District, NeYorkw
Incident Date:2012-10-25

Plaintiff's Complaint:
Plaintiff Alida Mattos, a woman, who according to defendant Peter Jenik ("Jenik") and Commissioner Robert Doar, as of December 2008, in her position as the Assistant Deputy Commissioner (Administrative Manager, Level M-4)has helped grow the Bureau of Fraud Investigation ("BFI") of the City of New York ("City"), Human Resources Administration ("HRA"), into a "pre-eminent example of how a Social Service agency can assume quasi-law enforcement responsibilities and discharge those responsibilities effectively, thereby providing a defense for the tax payers against misuse of precious public resources", and whose "ability, expertise and success as a leader and manager can be found in increases in the number of fraud cases handled and amounts recovered", was an extremely dedicated and loyal employee of the City for over 25 years. Those sterling qualities became irrelevant when she opposed discriminatory conduct towards a fellow Hispanic and supported the report of perceived violations of law against Jenik and his cohorts. As a consequence, following deceptive maneuvers orchestrated first by Jenik, and later by defendant James Sheehan ("heehan"), Matos was ultimately demoted from her senior managerial position and forced to end abruptly her over two-decade long public service with the City. More specifically, on September 25, 2012, and less than ninety days after becoming Plaintiff' direct supervisor, Sheehan informed Plaintiff she was to be demoted to her Civil Service title, and her salary drastically reduced. When Plaintiff inquired as to the reason for her demotion, Sheehan stated that Plaintiff served "at the pleasure of the Mayor"and that he was "not pleased"with Plaintiff' performance "last year." The reasons given by Sheehan were false and pretextual and a sham designed to conceal his discriminatory intent. Plaintiff' performance continued to be excellent. Remarkably, Sheehan' decision was made during a month in which BFI under Plaintiff had the highest fraud amount on record at HRA – over $5 Million for a single month. Within a few days of informing Plaintiff she was demoted to her Civil Service title, and her salary drastically reduced, with no advance warning, and to embarrass Plaintiff, at a managerial meeting held on September 28, 2012, Sheehan publicly announced in the presence of Plaintiff and others that Laura Parker, a less experienced and not nearly as accomplished black female, would take over Plaintiff' entire oversight and managerial responsibilities over BFI. Plaintiff was so shocked and emotionally devastated by the news of the decision to demote her and reduce her salary, and the announcement orchestrated by Sheehan, that Plaintiff had to take an immediate medical leave. On October 25, 2012, while Plaintiff was still on medical leave, Plaintiff was, unceremoniously and without following proper procedure, demoted to her Civil Service title of Associate Fraud Investigator II, a position she held at least 15 years earlier in her career, and her salary slashed by almost 20%. The decision to demote Plaintiff and reduce her pay was motivated by considerations of race and color, and was carried out without a fair, equitable or proper programmatic and functional analysis, or due regard to the merit. Defendant Sheehan showed preferential treatment by demoting Plaintiff from her managerial position, while retaining similarly-situated white and non-Hispanic employees in their respective managerial positions. Defendants' selection of employees demoted from management positions at HRA was disproportionately and deliberately targeted toward Hispanics, such as Plaintiff. At the time of Plaintiff' demotion, several Hispanics and other managers of color similarly situated with Plaintiff, such as: Sandra Satina, female Hispanic, Nancy Galarza, female Hispanic, Zenaida Rivera, female Hispanic, Maria Ferrigno, female Hispanic, and Curtis Tibbs, African American male, were targeted for demotion or reassigned from management positions, and relieved of their rank and responsibilities. On the other hand, many non-Hispanic whites such as Pulisic, a white male --then Executive Director for BFI-and Plaintiff's subordinate directly responsible for the operational performance of the BFI - were neither demoted, reassigned, or otherwise held accountable for their job performance. Several of the Hispanics demoted or reassigned as aforesaid were replaced in title, rank, duties and/or responsibilities by whites and non-Hispanics. Remarkably, Defendants' selection of employees who would replace Plaintiff or assume the functions previously handled by Plaintiff was also disproportionately and deliberately targeted to select non-Hispanics and to exclude Hispanic employees. On January 2, 2013, Mattos returned to work from her medical leave. She was directed to report to Joseph Rizzoti in the Claims and Collections Division of HRA. Despite being notified of Plaintiff' return, Rizzoti was totally unprepared for Plaintiff' return, did not know where to place Plaintiff, and confessed to Mattos that "to tell you the truth, I wish you weren't here."After two (2) days of being placed in limbo and with no specific tasks, duties or responsibilities, Plaintiff had to express in writing her eagerness to work. It was only then was Mattos assigned to perform menial and demeaning tasks unrelated and unsuited to her considerable experience. 6. One of such assignment involved a project concerning removing boxes from a vacant office. The decision to demote Plaintiff to her civil service title and reduce her pay was intentionally calculated to humiliate and embarrass Plaintiff, deliberately create an intolerable workplace environment, and compel Plaintiff to resign her employment with HRA. Demoting Plaintiff to the civil service title of Associate Fraud Investigator II subordinated Plaintiff and forced her to report to junior staff, many of whom she had supervised, trained, mentored, and even disciplined in years past. In addition, Plaintiff suffered the daily humiliation of working on menial and demeaning tasks which are not commensurate with her skills, qualification and experience. Shortly after her return to work, Plaintiff was made to attend a meeting incredibly embarrassing for her on January 8, 2013 Plaintiff was also assigned to work in a cubicle, where she was exposed to a constant parade of people who came by to gawk at what HRA had done to her.. By subjecting Plaintiff to a drastic and unjustified change in her pay, rank and duties, Defendants forced Plaintiff into involuntary resignation on February 1, 2013, and terminated her employment with HRA. Because of the above unlawful acts, Mattos seeks monetary compensation for violation of her civil rights to be free from discrimination on the basis of race, color, ancestry and national origin, and not to be retaliated against for opposing or supporting the report of unlawful conduct, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("ection 1983"); 42 U.S.C. §1981 ("ection 1981"); New York Human Rights Law as contained in New York State Executive Law, §296 et. seq. ("NYHRL"); New York City Human Rights Law, as contained in the Administrative Code of the City of New York, §8-107 et seq. ("NYCHRL"); and New York Civil Service Law ("CSL"), including Section 75-b of the New York Civil Service Law.

Injury, Damage, or Loss:
As a proximate result of Defendants' discriminatory conduct towards Plaintiff, suffer significant monetary loss, and damages, including the loss of past and future earnings, and other employment benefits, estimated to be no less than $750,000.00. As a further proximate result of Defendants' actions, Plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress, lasting embarrassment, humiliation and anguish, as well as, other incidental and consequential damages and expenses.

Defendant's Wrongdoing:
Matos was demoted from her senior managerial position and forced to end abruptly her over two-decade long public service with the City. More specifically, on September 25, 2012, and less than ninety days after becoming Plaintiff' direct supervisor, Sheehan informed Plaintiff she was to be demoted to her Civil Service title, and her salary drastically reduced. When Plaintiff inquired as to the reason for her demotion, Sheehan stated that Plaintiff served "at the pleasure of the Mayor"and that he was "not pleased"with Plaintiff' performance "last year." The reasons given by Sheehan were false and pretextual and a sham designed to conceal his discriminatory intent. Plaintiff' performance continued to be excellent. Remarkably, Sheehan' decision was made during a month in which BFI under Plaintiff had the highest fraud amount on record at HRA – over $5 Million for a single month. Within a few days of informing Plaintiff she was demoted to her Civil Service title, and her salary drastically reduced, with no advance warning, and to embarrass Plaintiff, at a managerial meeting held on September 28, 2012, Sheehan publicly announced in the presence of Plaintiff and others that Laura Parker, a less experienced and not nearly as accomplished black female, would take over Plaintiff' entire oversight and managerial responsibilities over BFI. Plaintiff was so shocked and emotionally devastated by the news of the decision to demote her and reduce her salary, and the announcement orchestrated by Sheehan, that Plaintiff had to take an immediate medical leave. On October 25, 2012, while Plaintiff was still on medical leave, Plaintiff was, unceremoniously and without following proper procedure, demoted to her Civil Service title of Associate Fraud Investigator II, a position she held at least 15 years earlier in her career, and her salary slashed by almost 20%. The decision to demote Plaintiff and reduce her pay was motivated by considerations of race and color, and was carried out without a fair, equitable or proper programmatic and functional analysis, or due regard to the merit. Defendant Sheehan showed preferential treatment by demoting Plaintiff from her managerial position, while retaining similarly-situated white and non-Hispanic employees in their respective managerial positions. Defendants' selection of employees demoted from management positions at HRA was disproportionately and deliberately targeted toward Hispanics, such as Plaintiff. At the time of Plaintiff' demotion, several Hispanics and other managers of color similarly situated with Plaintiff, such as: Sandra Satina, female Hispanic, Nancy Galarza, female Hispanic, Zenaida Rivera, female Hispanic, Maria Ferrigno, female Hispanic, and Curtis Tibbs, African American male, were targeted for demotion or reassigned from management positions, and relieved of their rank and responsibilities. On the other hand, many non-Hispanic whites such as Pulisic, a white male --then Executive Director for BFI-and Plaintiff's subordinate directly responsible for the operational performance of the BFI - were neither demoted, reassigned, or otherwise held accountable for their job performance. Several of the Hispanics demoted or reassigned as aforesaid were replaced in title, rank, duties and/or responsibilities by whites and non-Hispanics. Remarkably, Defendants' selection of employees who would replace Plaintiff or assume the functions previously handled by Plaintiff was also disproportionately and deliberately targeted to select non-Hispanics and to exclude Hispanic employees.

Plaintiff's Attorneys:
MADUEGBUNA COOPER LLP ATTORNEYS AT LAW 30 WALL STREET, 8th Floor NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10005 (212) 232-0155 (Tel) (212)232-0156 (Fax) www.mcande.com sam.m@mcande.com

Defendant's Attorneys:
MICHAEL A. CARDOZO Corporation Counsel of the City of New York Law Department 100 Church Street, Room 2-123 New York, New York 10007 Attention: Maxwell Leighton, Esq. (212) 356-2472 (Tel) email:mleighto@law.nyc.gov. Walter A. Kretz, Jr. Attorneys for Defendants, James G. Sheehan Scoppetta Seiff Kretz & Abercrombie 444 Madison Avenue, 30th Floor New York, NY 10022

Judge/Arbitrator/Mediator:
Hon. Miriam Cedarbaum U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007

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READER COMMENTS

Posted by
anna butterfield
on
i am on the court calender to submit the amended claim authorized by the Judge in the Southern District court in New York, for submission by 12/12/2016. please advise if you can assist with representing me ?
Thank you for your review.

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