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A one-time de Blasio administration employee charges she became the target of retaliation — a practice that she says was widespread during the last mayor’s term — after she filed complaints about racial discrimination on the job, according to a new Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit.
The 114-page class action filing by former Mayor’s Office of Appointments Special Counsel and Deputy Director of Vetting Martha Perez-Pedemonti also cites a hostile work environment during her time at the agency — which ended in Jan. 31, 2020, when she claims she was driven to quit after struggling with mental health issues related to her work.
“As a result of the pressure and ... the ongoing retaliation from MOA, and her MOA colleagues’ warnings of further retaliation if she returned ... Plaintiff resigned from MOA,” the court papers alleged, asking for a jury trial in the case.
Perez-Pedemonti, described in the court papers as “a brown-skinned Hispanic woman,” recounted her first issues shortly after taking the job in 2018 when an agency executive declared “in a harsh tone that there were ‘three Muslims’ in the roster for the newly created Civic Engagement Commission.”
The superior then instructed another official “to take two of them out of contention for the 14 available positions,” the court papers alleged. The lawsuit also claims she was passed over for promotion for a less qualified “light-skinned Caucasian man.”
In another incident, the court papers said, a candidate for another position “did not look ‘Hispanic enough’” for the job — with the remarks eventually taking a toll on Perez-Pedemonti.
“As a result of this work environment, and the resulting increasing frequency of her work-related panic attacks, Plaintiff sought the care of a psychiatrist,” the court papers alleged.
“Her psychiatrist recommended that [Perez-Pedemonti] take [Family and Medical Leave Act] leave to receive treatment for generalized anxiety and associated panic attacks.”
The plaintiff specifically alleged she suffered difficulty sleeping, hair loss, an elevated heart rate, anxiety, loss of appetite and exacerbation of her asthma condition.
In addition to the city, the defendants include former MOA Director Joni Kletter — who served as de Blasio’s campaign treasurer during his 2017 reelection run and two of her male colleagues, Sosimo Fabian and Michael Levario.
“We will review the lawsuit,” said a New York City Law Department spokesman.
According to the suit, Perez-Pedemonti was targeted because of her complaints about discrimination and retaliation in the office, including being passed over for promotions and demoted.
The city was also cited for “a pattern, practice, policy and/or custom of retaliation against employees” making complaints to the city concerning commissioners, agency heads, and/or EEO officers.
The lawsuit also makes a class action claim on behalf of city workers who filed EEO complaints against the city, asking for a reevaluation of complaints previously found to be unsubstantiated.