East Hampton Discrimination Suit Settled For $81,000

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The Town of East Hampton must pay $81,000 to one of its employees, who two years ago filed a federal civil lawsuit alleging discrimination based on his age, race and national origin.

Jorge Kusanovic, who works for the town’s Parks and Recreation Department, agreed to a settlement with the town earlier this month. He had originally been seeking $18 million—$3 million for each of six causes of action, including back pay and interest.

According to attorney Lawrence Kelly, who represents him, Mr. Kusanovic was satisfied with the town’s offer, but still stands as a “Latino pioneer” who advocated for equal treatment when he saw it wasn’t being given.

“This simply means [the town’s representatives] have acknowledged their prospects were not good for them on trial, but it’s no admission of liability,” Mr. Kelly said this week. “We’re comfortable with the resolution of this case.”

Over the course of his then eight-year employment with the town, Mr. Kusanovic said, he was consistently discriminated against.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Kelly alleges that, although Mr. Kusanovic is an American citizen who is originally from Chile, he was passed up for promotion while other younger, white employees were given opportunities. Mr. Kelly also said Mr. Kusanovic was never paid income he should have received as a recreation leader.

According to Mr. Kelly, quite a few nasty comments were made to Mr. Kusanovic. For example, when he was advised of a change in responsibility, he was given a pamphlet, along with the notification, that showed a picture of John Wayne in front of an American flag and said, “Now just why in the hell do I have to press 1 for English?”

Other co-workers had made discriminatory comments during conversation, according to Mr. Kelly, as when Mr. Kusanovic started working for Parks and Recreation and his then boss said it was “awfully dark around here,” in reference to Mr. Kusanovic’s skin color.

Another said there were “too many Spanish people here,” and one woman said she would not want her children to “have to work with Spanish people as we do,” according to the lawsuit.

Other instances of discrimination, Mr. Kelly said, were apparent in the way Mr. Kusanovic was not allowed to take needed personal days, have his wife bring him lunch, and when he was made to clean the Amagansett Youth Park’s bathroom when the janitorial staff could have done that.

According to Mr. Kelly, Mr. Kusanovic tried to help talented young Latinos get jobs with the town by handing in their resumes, but they “decided he was too much trouble,” and that’s when he was assigned to the Montauk skate park.

And, while he was assigned there, he was forced to work in an unheated, uninsulated shed, with no electricity, water or bathroom, according to the suit.

Mr. Kusanovic still works for the town in the Parks and Recreation Department.

“Jorge was a real Latino pioneer in the East Hampton Town government,” Mr. Kelly said, noting that while his client worked for East Hampton Town, he also held two other jobs. “I hope that he’ll be able to watch his daughters become the leaders of this generation’s Hispanic community.”

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