A man who once worked for Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) is claiming he was discriminated against for his disability and treated like a slave, according to court papers filed last Monday.
In the federal lawsuit naming the New York City Council, Ferreras, her deputy chief of staff, Yoselin Genao, and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) as defendants in both official and individual capacities, Steven Castro of Maspeth alleges he worked for Ferreras full time as a council’s aide and received less than minimum wage when he was finally paid for his services.
Castro claims he was also subjected to a hostile work environment in which he was denied reasonable accommodation for his physical handicap in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
During Christmas time, Castro said he was made to clean out a basement by himself to prepare for a children’s party. He had to “decorate and haul dozens upon dozens of Christmas gifts for the children,” according to the suit. Castro allegedly performed the task over several days during which he worked more than 10 hours each day. He complained to Ferreras that he was “being treated like a ‘slave,’” but she did not respond to his grievances, according to the suit.
The council’s aide position, which Castro initially thought was going to be a computer-based desk job, ended up including janitorial and gopher duties, according to Castro. He was expected to travel back and forth on the subway to perform tasks and unlike other staffers, he said he was expected to pay for the travel out of his own pocket.
Castro claims in the suit that “Genao frequently criticized him in front of coworkers and repeatedly snapped her fingers at him to move faster and ‘sucked her teeth’ at him to express her dissatisfaction.”
Castro said after he recovered some back wages from Ferreras, she retaliated against him by cutting his hours down to two per week and told him to “take it or leave it.” As a result, Castro said he was “constructively discharged on March 17, 2010,” according to the suit.
Castro is requesting a jury trial and remuneration in the amount of $500,000 plus court fees and back wages.
A street renaming in July was disrupted by protesters led by friends of Hiram Monserrate, accusing Ferreras of discrimination.
Ferreras is cooperating with investigations in connection with a case against Monserrate filed this month in U.S. District Court, accusing the former politician of misusing public funds.
Ferreras did not respond to requests for comment regarding Castro’s lawsuit.