Ocean City Today
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Former city employee sues after ‘intimidated’ out of job

Woman alleges that town perpetuated office bullying after she reported coworker
By Katie Tabeling | Sep 14, 2017

(Sept. 15, 2017) A former Ocean City Police Department employee alleges the city perpetuated a hostile work environment that involved her being “ridiculed, intimidated and mocked” into resignation after she filed a complaint for workplace bullying.

Sandra D’Alessandro, a former records technician, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court earlier this month against the Town of Ocean City, years after she reported discriminatory acts with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). D’Alessandro filed the complaint roughly 90 days after the EEOC issued her two “right to sue” letters earlier this summer.

The core of D’Alessandro’s complaint claims that a former coworker repeatedly harassed her and two African-American employees when she started a seasonal job in May 2014.  D’Alessandro is Caucasian.

This coworker made several racially and sexually charged comments, according to the lawsuit. During an argument, the coworker allegedly told D’Alessandro to leave him alone and to “do nothing … act black like your friends,” according to court documents.

After D’Alessandro complained to her supervisor, the coworker threatened her that there would be “hell to pay” if she did it again, according to the complaint. Days later, the two got into another argument when the coworker scrutinized an African-American employee’s timecard. The coworker “literally backed her into a wall” and told her to “mind your own business … you are nothing but a n***** lover.”

His behavior allegedly escalated, she contends, as he would stand behind D’Alessandro and “mumble” threats as she worked. The suit further alleges that despite other complaints to her supervisor, D’Alessandro was repeatedly assigned shifts alone with this coworker.

D’Alessandro said her supervisor told her that “maybe” they could take the matter to the division captain, indicating that other department heads or human resources were not informed. On Sept. 9, D’Alessandro and her supervisor went to speak with the captain, but he reportedly said he would “not entertain a discussion with Sandra D’Alessandro now or ever.”

At that point, the supervisor scheduled an appointment with Police Chief Ross Buzzuro, but D’Alessandro opted to file a complaint with the city’s human resources director, Wayne Evans, despite what she contends were warnings of retaliation. That night, according to the suit, the City Council voted to terminate the full-time records technician job that D’Alessandro was conditionally offered months earlier.

The coworker was suspended after D’Alessandro submitted a taped interview of the harassment. She also says that she later learned that another coworker was still under consideration for the full-time position “should regain funding.” Both women were later interviewed for the position.

D’Alessandro, who is diagnosed with dyslexia, says she was asked to submit medical documentation before the mandatory polygraph test. She also says she was later told that “each candidate was subject to different requirements” before the test.

When D’Alessandro arrived to take a polygraph test, she alleges that she was told that the position had been removed from the city’s website. One day later she filed her first EEOC complaint.

Buzzuro allegedly offered D’Alessandro the full-time position again weeks later.

When D’Alessandro told her supervisor about the EEOC complaint, her supervisor reportedly said “You have every right to do this, but things will be very different…I will have to do what I am told to do.”

In the next three months, D’Alessandro says she suffered humiliations at the hands of her supervisor. At one point, the supervisor allegedly threw files that D’Alessandro worked on, laughed at her and ordered her to do them over again. D’Alessandro’s lawsuit claims she was ordered to stop using highlighters on the files, which she used as tools to assist with her dyslexia.

Other times, the supervisor yelled, mocked and called D’Alessandro names in front of other employees, according to the complaint.

During this time, D’Alessandro filed another EEOC complaint on what happened before she was hired full-time.

On March 17, 2015, D’Alessandro left work after another encounter with her supervisor. She reportedly mocked D’Alessandro for “being so upset that she was now sick,” according to the complaint.

D’Alessandro’s doctor told her to stay home from work to recover from the stress. When she tried to return to work two days later, the police department reportedly told her that she had been suspended. D’Alessandro resigned on April 6 after she was reportedly notified by OCPD that she would be terminated if she did not resign.

As a result, D’Alessandro claims that she needed to seek treatment for “extreme anxiety and stress related to her former position with Ocean City.” Since she left the Ocean City Police Department, she has applied for roughly 200 jobs, none of which resulted in a full-time position.

She alleges in the lawsuit that Ocean City told potential employers that she was a “troublemaker” and a “liar” during reference checks.

D’Alessandro is seeking an injunction enjoining Ocean City from interfering in her attempts to secure employment and awards for compensatory damages, including damages for her mental anguish and humiliation and lost wages.

 

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