A Town of Hempstead employee has filed a federal lawsuit against the town and its highway department for racism that he says goes back almost 10 years.
Jimmie Howard, 43, once a town Highway employee and now with the town’s Parks Department, filed a lawsuit in U. S. District Court in Brooklyn on Thursday, charging that highway supervisors and employees called him a “monkey” and treated him worse than white employees.
On April 28, 2014, Howard charged in court papers, employees posted a picture of a baby gorilla on the official bulletin board at the highway department in Levittown and indicated it was Howard’s baby picture.
“That people would think like that in this day and age is despicable, but that they would also say them in public is sociopathic,” said Howard’s Manhattan-based attorney, Joseph Tacopina.
Town spokesman Michael Deery said that, while the Town “does not comment on pending litigation, it has a zero tolerance for racial discrimination.”
Howard, who lives in Hempstead Village, has been a town employee since 2006, and the actions by fellow employees and supervisors that he alleges began around October 2007, according to court papers. The papers charge that one supervisor “continuously yelled” at him and called him a “monkey. The papers also say that nooses were hung from the back of a forklift at the department, including one that held a tarred stuff animal.
The court papers state that, after complaining about the abuse to another supervisor, he was told the other supervisor “didn’t take [his] medication.” That supervisor was not punished, according to the papers.
Howard was an equipment operator and said in his court papers that he was assigned the worst equipment, like a heatless and fume-filled truck, and the worst “job assignments, such as picking up dead animals and garbage.”
Between 2007 and 2014 he was written up for “arriving a few minutes late to work, while other employees who arrived at the same time or later, were not,” according to the papers.
He also said that if he arrived at 7:05 a.m. his pay would start at 8 a.m., while white employees would arrive at 10 a.m. and still get paid from 7 a.m.
After the 2014 gorilla posting and his failure to get departmental assistance on the issue, the court papers state that he did not immediately return to work on his doctor’s advice.
He returned on June 2, 2014, to the town’s parks department, where he still works. The papers state that he was “constructively” discharged from the highway department and lost sick and vacation days he was entitled to.
As a result, the papers said, he is entitled to compensatory damages for emotional distress, lost sick and vacations days, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.