Former Malverne employee information civil rights lawsuit over racial discrimination

A former Malverne Public Works employee experienced a decade of racist bigotry and harassment from his white workers, who labeled him racist epithets, spat in his drinking water and hung a noose in the locker room, a new civil rights lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Mineola Supreme Court by Franklin Feliz, 31, who says he is the only employee of the minority department against the village of Malverne and then-superintendent of public works, Paul Jessup. Feliz, who worked for the Highways Department and supported the plumbing crews, is black and Spanish.

Feliz, who stepped down in 2019 and now works in sales, said he still suffers from anxiety, depression and sleeps less than four hours a night.

“It’s something that broke me as a man,” Feliz said Thursday in Garden City. “It broke me tremendously. I have stressed eating. I am stressed … 95% of the day because of everything that has happened to me in the past 10 years. I keep it as a rewind in my head. I try to move forward look, but it’s still like that. ” plays in my head like a video of everything I’ve been through. “

When he complained to supervisors and his union representatives about the treatment, Feliz said he was told, “This is not a daycare or school” and “They are not here to babysit us.”

Feliz and his lawyer Jonathan Bell first filed a discrimination and harassment lawsuit against Malverne in February 2020. The original case, which contained only a fraction of the most serious allegations made in the most recent complaint, was expanded after Feliz recalled details of his allegation’s treatment during talks with his lawyers, Bell said.

“This is one of the worst cases of racial discrimination I have ever dealt with or seen,” said Bell. “… The terms of his employment were deplorable.”

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The lawsuit claims unspecified damage and calls on the village to conduct racial training programs.

The village’s mayor, Keith Corbett, said the complaint had not been served on Malverne and had no formal complaint.

But Corbett responded to Feliz’s interview with Newsday in a statement: “The brutal allegations seem nothing more than an attempt to seize this important moment in our country’s history to capitalize on the financial gain. This person started a lawsuit before two years for the same relief and has not made these allegations. The village authorities would never condone this type of behavior. “

Feliz said the alleged abuse started after he was discontinued in 2009 when staff referred to him as a “Mexican”. The suit says the nicknames escalated, and Feliz said he was repeatedly called the N-word “Freeloader” and “Deadbeat Dad”.

The lawsuit contains a litany of other derogatory insults and racial stereotypes allegedly directed against Feliz, from being labeled a member of the MS-13 gang to testifying the father of two that he does not belong to the country to assuming he was a member of the MS-13 gang Father is a drug dealer. Several comments, Feliz said, referred to the Ku Klux Klan, which was present in Malverne in the 1920s.

“This was completely new to me,” said Feliz, who grew up in Brooklyn and moved to Long Island when she was 16. “It surprised me.”

Despite the harassment, Feliz said he refused to resign because his $ 70,000 salary was needed to pay off his student loan.

The harassment escalated beyond ethnic insults, he said. At the beginning of his tenure, Feliz said a rope was tied in a noose in the department’s locker room.

When a position as a sanitation truck driver was opened, Feliz was informed that he needed a commercial driver’s license but that his bosses “had no confidence” that he could complete the program. Upon completion of the program, the position was filled by a less qualified white candidate.

Jessup often made an example for Feliz, the suit said.

In one case, Feliz said he was asked to remove a branch from Ocean Avenue and told other employees, “You have to do things the white way.” Jessup, who no longer works for the village, did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2015, an employee spat in Feliz’s water beaker in front of him, calling him an explosive device and the N-word, it said in the suit. Feliz said he reported the incident to Jessup but no action was taken.

“They knew they wouldn’t have any problems because it was a small town,” Feliz said. “Everyone knows everyone.”

In November 2018, Feliz took a three-month vacation, accepted a $ 45,000 wage cut in another job, and then resigned for good in March 2019, according to the lawsuit.

During an exit meeting with Corbett and then Mayor Patti McDonald, Feliz announced that a full investigation was being conducted. It is unclear whether an investigation was conducted and Feliz said he was never contacted again.

McDonald, who resigned in April 2019, said she did not know the details of the suit but was “blind” to the allegations. “We would take these issues very seriously,” said McDonald.

More than two years after leaving office, Feliz continues to fear retaliation but wants to ensure that no other employee is ever exposed to similar abuse.

“I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve been through,” he said, “in an incorporated village where they keep sweeping things under the carpet.”

Robert Brodsky is a breaking news reporter who has been with Newsday since 2011. He is a graduate of Queens College and American University.

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