A receptionist at the city’s personnel division has filed a lawsuit seeking $2.5 million in damages citing a “toxic work environment.”
Migdalia Salcedo-Romano alleges the city discriminated against her based in her ethnic heritage, denied her advancement, and issued a negative performance evaluation on dubious grounds.
Much of the allegations take aim at personnel director Abby Levenson. Romano alleges Levenson assigned her duties outside her job description, discussed details of her medical history with other employees, and laughed at her Spanish accent, according to the lawsuit.
Levenson could not be reached for comments on Thursday morning. She has habitually failed to respond to calls for comments in the past year.
Romano claims Levenson assigned her to handle duties outside her job description as a receptionist. “I was once asked to explain benefits to the newly hired employees because the person normally assigned to the task was not present in the office for several occasions,” Romano says in her complaint. She was also put in charge of handling mail, filing papers, and prepare material for new hires. She was also tasked to handle a number of duties that is usually handled by a clerk, says the lawsuit.
Romano, who has been working for the city for the past three years, also claims she was denied advancement. She applied for the personnel officer position, but was rejected, for the job required the applicant to hold the position of clerk.
Levenson offered to promote Romano to clerk. However, Romano rejected the offer. She reasoned she was already doing the work of a clerk.
Romano then applied for the assistant personnel director position. She had an interview with business administrator Nellie Pou and Levenson on April 7th, 2017.
Both Pou and Levenson allegedly told her she did not understand the questions being asked at the interview. Both also told her she did not qualify for the position of assistant personnel director.
“Maybe, I can be the assistant director of Health and Human Services,” Levenson allegedly joked at that meeting.
A month later, Romano was transferred to another department with a $500 pay increase. She was also denied an open vacant position at the department. One position required a bilingual speaker, but she was denied for that position as well, claims the lawsuit.
Romano alleged Levenson also laughed whenever she spoke. Romano is of Dominican extraction and speaks with an accent.
“There were times where I witnessed Abby looking at me with negative facial expressions, laughing behind my back whenever I speak,” Romano claims in her lawsuit.
She states there were also times when Levenson would “become so agitated” with her to the point where she felt she would be “assaulted” at any moment.
Romano’s lawsuit paints a chaotic image of the personnel division. The lawsuit states, the hostilities between employees at the division led her to disengage from social conversations that had to do with subjects unrelated to work. She also refused to participate in office gatherings and other events.
Levenson allegedly gave her a negative performance review for failing to take part in office gatherings and parties. She received a negative review for leaving Levenson’s birthday party early without eating cake and failing to participate in a pizza party, alleges the lawsuit.
Romano also refused to donate to fundraisers. She spoke to her union representative about the issue and was told it was not mandatory to attend office parties, says the lawsuit.
Romano filed her lawsuit late last month. She currently works as a clerk for $30,600, according to municipal records. She is seeking medical costs for physical and mental stress caused by the “toxic” work environment, compensation for handling duties outside her job description, and other damages.
She is seeking $2.5 million in damages.