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Town Worker Alleges Racial Discrimination, Sues for $3 Million

Chilean immigrant says he was sent to Montauk Skate Park to work during previous administrations that held back promotions and harassed him.

Jorge Kusanovic, who has worked for the town's park department for 16 years, is suing East Hampton Town for $3 million on allegations that he was treated unfairly for a decade because he is Latino.

Kusanovic, a 67-year-old Chilean immigrant who has lived in Montauk for 36 years, is suing for back pay and the value of an enhanced pension he claims he is owed.

He used to work as an assistant recreation leader, running programs at the and now works in a small, dilapidated shed at the Montauk Skate Park, where he said he was exiled four years ago, retaliation, he said for trying to stop sexual harassment of a young, Hispanic female worker.

Kusanovic is represented by Lawrence Kelly, of Bayport, a former federal prosecutor who is also . "Everything, I've looked at in the last nine months in East Hampton, 100 out of 100 times they do the wrong thing," Kelly said. "In terms of finding people whose rights have been violated by government, East Hampton is just a clear shot."

On May 25, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a 90 day letter indicating a right to sue following a commission investigation.

But Kusanovic said it was the previous administrations under which the problem began — he said on Tuesday that he has no problems with the current supervisor or town park department head John Rooney.

In 2007, Kusanovic filed an employment discrimination complaint against the town alleging discrimination on the basis of race, national origin and age discrimination.

Kusanovic, whose father was Croatian and his mother, Italian, was born in Chile but emigrated to the United States after the 1973 Chilean coup d'état. Though he initially settled in New Jersey, a job at Gurney's Inn in Montauk brought him and his wife to Montauk, where they went on to raise two daughters. He eventually became an American citizen.

After 18 years as a Newsday deliveryman, he applied for a job with the town. According to the complaint, he was "a Latino pioneer in the overwhelmingly white work force of East Hampton Town."

The complaint also alleges that the discrimination actions included moving Kusanovic to the skate park, where the only building is unheated and uncooled, has no electricity, and no restroom. Instead, he has had to use an outside port-a-potty.

A Civil Service employee, Kusanovic claims that despite being qualified for numerous promotions, he was passed over in favor of younger, white hires.

"The younger, white hires made it a practice to harass Jorge Kusanovic and deny him privileges allowed young white employees and other non Hispanic employees," the complaint alleges.

He was told he wasn't allowed to walk around the track at the Youth Park during his lunch break, while the other employees were allowed to take part in several activities at any given time, he claims. He also wasn't allowed to take his shirt off during his break "by a young white woman supervisor while the young white woman supervisor was standing next to a young white male co worker who was wearing only a very short pair of shorts and no shirt," the complaint states.

In addition to being given the task of cleaning bathrooms at the Youth Park, a job he said was not given to anyone else with his job title, he even received a harassing note: A picture of John Wayne in front of an American flag that read, "Now just why in the HELL do I have to press "1" for English?"

He also claims he was denied sick leave to go with his wife to visit her mother in Chile after she had a stroke and that he was locked out of his office by his supervisors.

Meanwhile, Vincent Toomey, East Hampton’s labor attorney, told The New York Post that Kusanovic’s claims are meritless.

P. Loke December 06, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Why didn't Wilkinson take care of this when the EEOC issued its ruling? Wasn't there a proposed settlement at that time? It probably would have cost less than a law suit.

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