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Brookhaven ex-employee sues town, citing age discrimination

Brookhaven Town announced a new interactive traffic safety

Brookhaven Town announced a new interactive traffic safety website on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. Credit: Town of Brookhaven

A former Brookhaven building inspector has filed a federal age-discrimination lawsuit against the town, saying he was denied overtime pay and forced to resign last year.

William Bahnsen, 62, who is seeking lost pay and benefits, said in the lawsuit the town refused to pay him overtime for about six months each year beginning in 2005. Bahnsen, who worked for the town for 16 years, said officials falsified his payroll records to make it appear he did not work overtime.

In the lawsuit, filed Aug. 1 in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, Bahnsen said town officials had a “pattern and practice” of firing older employees or forcing them to resign. Bahnsen named nine other town employees who he said also suffered age discrimination. They are not parties to the suit.

“Throughout the course of Bahnsen’s employment, he observed that senior employees that were over 40 years of age were often pushed out based on trumped-up charges,” the lawsuit said. “This was the case with Bahnsen.”

Town spokesman Kevin Molloy said the town doesn’t comment on pending litigation but “We are confident that this suit will be thrown out.”

Bahnsen’s suit alleges last year he was falsely accused of stealing time and services from Brookhaven, but he said he was never formally charged.

The lawsuit states Bahnsen resigned last October because unidentified town officials “continued to consistently threaten Bahnsen with civil and criminal charges for fabricated conduct and interrogate him as if he was a criminal.” In court papers, Bahnsen refers to his resignation as a “constructive termination.”

Bahnsen and his attorney, Thomas Ricotta of Long Island City, did not return calls for comment.

In the lawsuit, Bahnsen said he was paid $46 an hour and was owed an overtime rate of 1.5 times his base pay for any work over 35.5 hours a week. He said he typically worked 47.5 hours a week.

After he was transferred to an office in Town Hall in Farmingville in 2005, town officials refused to pay him overtime from September through February each year, he said. In the lawsuit, Bahnsen alleged officials changed his time sheets to show he worked two hours less each day.

Bahnsen does not specify how much back pay he is seeking.

He said in the lawsuit he was promoted in 2007 to senior building inspector, then demoted about one year later to building inspector “due to Civil Service exam results.”

He said he passed the Civil Service exam last year and was again promoted to senior building inspector.

Two months after his promotion, he was told he would be demoted because he was under investigation by town officials, according to the lawsuit.

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