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Nassau to borrow about $1M to settle suits

Nassau County is poised to borrow nearly $1 million to settle two lawsuits, including one by four Latina health department workers who alleged they were harassed and discriminated against while on the job.

County lawmakers on Monday will consider bonding resolutions totaling $933,210 to end the unrelated suits. If approved, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority board will vote on the payments before the plaintiffs receive them.

About $400,000 would be split between the four former county health employees -- Celina Breton, Alma Duran, Betty Martinez-Narvaez and Ana Miranda -- who took Nassau to federal court in 2012. The rest will go to Robert Piazza, a former assistant executive director of the county's Traffic & Parking Violations Agency who challenged his 2010 termination in State Supreme Court.

In the discrimination suit, Breton, Duran, Martinez-Narvaez and Miranda alleged that they were treated differently than white counterparts at the health department's Women, Infants and Children's Program. The women, who were ultimately laid off, alleged that they were regularly demeaned by bosses and subjected to offensive remarks about their ethnicity. Some said they were not allowed to answer phones because they didn't "speak properly" or were made to work in a closet at times.

The federal lawsuit went to a mediator, who helped broker the settlement last summer.

"My clients will be happy when this is over," Rick Ostrove, the women's Carle Place attorney, said Tuesday, adding that Nassau County has agreed to Equal Employment Opportunity training as part of the tentative settlement. "They're hopeful this stuff won't happen in the future."

In the other case, Piazza said the county wrongfully terminated him in June 2010 based on the belief that his employment status was not subject to a probationary period, court records show. An arbitrator ruled in his favor, ordering that the county award back pay and benefits.

Piazza's attorney, Louis Stober Jr. of Garden City, could not be reached for comment.

County Attorney Carnell Foskey said in a statement that the settlements in both cases "will dispose of the litigation to the satisfaction of all parties."

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