A Hempstead Town worker who claimed he was racially targeted by a co-worker with a photo of a baby gorilla posted in his office in April, wants the town to reimburse his sick time and vacation days.
An attorney for Jimmie Howard, 40, sent a letter to the town Wednesday demanding 18 sick days and two vacation days be restored for time off he needed for emotional distress. His attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said Howard would seek legal action if the paid days off were not returned.
Hempstead spokesman Michael Deery said the town doesn't comment on "internal personnel matters."
Howard worked as an equipment operator for the town's highway department for eight years until he was transferred to the Parks and Recreation Department last week.
The Nassau County district attorney's office is investigating the case as a possible hate crime.
The photo was posted on a bulletin board April 28 at the Market Lane highway office in Levittown and labeled "Jimmy's baby picture."
"Due to this racist treatment, Mr. Howard suffers from severe emotional distress," Tacopina said in his letter to the town.
As a result of "persistent mental anxiety," Howard's doctor said he should be excused from work from April 30 until June 2, the letter stated. Tacopina said the town was retaliating against Howard for complaining about the racist photo. "It is outrageous that the town would punish Mr. Howard in such a matter and take such clear adverse employment actions against him while he was suffering from these mental injuries caused by the racist conduct of its own employees," he wrote.
Howard is working with the parks department on a $48,716 annual salary and subject to a 12-week probationary period after his transfer, effective June 3.
After the photo surfaced in April, Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray said the town would look to find the employee responsible and terminate that person. Town officials have not said if anyone has been identified or if any action was taken.Murray has said that the 25 highway department employees would be required to attend diversity training.
Howard's letter has been turned over to the town attorney, Deery said.