City hit with lawsuit over Black workers’ treatment at Dept. of Buildings

Case claims supervisors used N-word, passed over African-Americans for promotions

National Weekend Edition /
Dec.December 04, 2021 03:43 PM
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White supervisors at New York City’s Department of Buildings’ Office of the Buildings Marshal used the N-word around black employees and wrote them up for frivolous infractions, passed them by for promotions in favor of less-qualified white employees, and denied them accommodations such as city vehicles due to disabilities, a new lawsuit claims.

According to AM New York, the civil rights suit filed by nine Black building inspectors and one white supervisor in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday alleges many Black employees who dared speak out about the practices faced swift retaliation, and others felt they had no choice but to quit working at the agency because of how they were treated.

The suit also claims one manager insisted that Black supervisors were only promoted to their position because of skin color, complained that city cars smelled any time a Black employee used one, used a thinly veiled racist gesture with his hand that plaintiffs say was a reference to skin color, and boasted that he was friendly with neo-Nazis on Long Island, according to the report.

“If these actions were taken in the Louisiana Bayou in 1963, they would still offend,” the paper reports the suit says. “But they did not occur in 1963, but rather in the present. And right here in the Big Apple. Indeed, these actions and this systemic racism was allowed to germinate and fester under the nose of the ostensibly progressive Mayor de Blasio administration for years.”

Two Black employees claim in the suit that they were told to address the Building Marshal, identified in the suit as Salvatore Agostino, as “sir” and were informed that promotions would only be given to those that the supervisor liked, and not those that earned it on merit.

The suit alleges supervisors retaliated against Black employees who sought disabilities accommodations, in one case revoking the use of a city car for travel to appointments after the employee, who is diabetic, requested a change in hours so he could attend therapy.

The Office of the Buildings Marshall inspects buildings for violations to the New York City building code and oversees and coordinates the department’s investigations of major cases, according to the city’s website.

Lawyers said they want City Hall to look into the allegations and fire those responsible.

A Department of Buildings spokesman told the paper that it had not yet been served with the lawsuit, and it would review it if that occurred.

“Racism has no place in our city,” the spokesman, Ryan Degan, told the publication. “The Department of Buildings is committed to a fair workplace, and we have a strong Equal Employment Opportunity policy to promote an inclusive work environment for everyone at the agency.”

[AM New York] — Vince DiMiceli





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