The city’s Department of Buildings was hit with a civil rights lawsuit Thursday alleging widespread racial and disability discrimination in the Office of the Buildings Marshal, which encompasses the agency’s building inspection units.
The suit, filed by nine Black building inspectors (and one white supervisor) in Manhattan Supreme Court, argues that white supervisors systematically favored white employees for promotions; denied Black employees access to city vehicles and reasonable accommodations due to disability; said the N-word around Black employees; and constantly wrote up Black employees on frivolous violations while white employees got off scot-free.
Anyone who came forward faced swift retaliation, the suit claims, and eventually many Black employees felt no alternative but to leave the agency.
“If these actions were taken in the Louisiana Bayou in 1963, they would still offend,” the suit reads. “But they did not occur in 1963, but rather in the present. And right here in the Big Apple. Indeed, these actions and this systemic racism was allowed to germinate and fester under the nose of the ostensibly progressive Mayor de Blasio administration for years.”
The plaintiffs allege that Black employees were passed over for promotions to supervisor in favor of white employees with fewer qualifications, some of whom hadn’t passed a civil service exam, and in at least one case were then forced to train them.
Two Black employees allege that when they brought their concerns to the Buildings Marshal, identified in the suit as Salvatore Agostino, the supervisor brushed off their concerns and demanded they address him as “sir,” which he never asked of white employees.
Agostino also allegedly told an employee that when it comes to promotions, “all that matters is whether I like you, not whether you do a good job.”
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