A prestigious Bridgehampton golf club is battling allegations that it discriminated against, physically threatened and ultimately forced out an employee of 13 years because of his race, religion and national origin.
The Atlantic Golf Club, in a lawsuit filed last month by Riverhead resident Javed Khan, a former caddy, in U.S. District Court, also faces claims that it retaliated against Mr. Khan, a Muslim of Guyanese and South Asian descent, when he complained about his treatment, and that the harassment escalated after he witnessed the theft of disgraced financier Bernie Madoff’s golf clubs in 2009.
The suit states that supervisors called Mr. Khan a “terrorist” and told him he should hide himself from members because “he was not the best representation of the club,” did not look like his colleagues at the Scuttlehole Road club, and did not belong there.
After caddying for former President Bill Clinton in 2011, Mr. Khan claims, his supervisor told him the government was going to check his fingerprints on Mr. Clinton’s clubs and find out he was a terrorist and a member of Al Qaeda.
According to the lawsuit, the same supervisor threatened to make Mr. Khan’s life “hell” and “miserable” if he accepted an assistant caddy master position, which he did in 2007. Mr. Khan, who worked at Atlantic as a caddy and staff employee from 1998 to 2011, claims the supervisor made him fearful of bodily injury and death.
The animosity toward Mr. Khan turned “hostile and violent” in 2008, the suit states, when he asked about the negative attitude toward him, and his supervisor allegedly lunged toward him and pushed him, screaming curses and threats to fire and kill him.
Despite complaining about his treatment multiple times, Mr. Khan claims, nothing was addressed, and, instead, his pay was reduced from $22 per hour to $20 an hour.
In 2009, he said he was made a “scapegoat” in an incident involving the termination of another employee after Mr. Khan witnessed the theft of Mr. Madoff’s clubs. Following the incident, his supervisors and managers pushed him to leave the club, in part by spreading rumors that he was a liar and thief.
In September 2009, the suit continues, Mr. Khan was told that if he did not quit, he would be fired, and his supervisor would make sure he went bankrupt should he return to work on the staff. In October 2011, Mr. Khan was so fearful of “harassment, humiliation, embarrassment and possible death” that he was unable to return to work, the suit says.
Around December 2011, he tendered his resignation because his working conditions were so bad, a so-called “constructive dismissal,” and in May 2012, following his departure, his supervisor continued to spread rumors to members and staff that he was “mentally sick” and that he would commit suicide if he did not return to work, the lawsuit alleges.
Mr. Khan claims his treatment at Atlantic cost him income and benefits and continues to cause him “extreme emotional distress.” He has also had to seek medical treatment for numerous psychological issues as a result, the suit says.
Mr. Khan filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in June 2012, and, in February 2013, the EEOC issued him a right-to-sue letter in federal court.
The club’s attorney, Michael Weber of the Manhattan firm Littler Mendelson, said on Tuesday, “We don’t comment on pending litigation, but I can tell you I anticipate the matter will be amicably resolved shortly.”