NYC Church Sued for Racial and Age Discrimination, Retaliation, Failure to Pay Overtime and Benefits

Riverside Church, long known for its social justice efforts, has been sued by a former employee for not providing her with full-time status and its attendant benefits, racial and age discrimination, and retaliation.

Clarissa Sinceno, a 48 year old African American woman at the time of her termination, has been “devoted” to The Riverside Church for many years, having married and raised her children there, according to the complaint. She volunteered, contributed musical skills, donated money, and became a member in 2003.

After volunteering in the church’s events department for a while, she was hired as a part time temporary worker in 2013. Beginning in 2014, the role became full time and Sinceno often worked more than 40 hours a week, according to the complaint. She claims she received positive feedback from supervisors and coworkers.

Although Sinceno was working full-time hours, she was not given full-time benefits, including health insurance, according to the complaint.

In 2016, Riverside created a new position – events coordinator – and posted a notice for the job. Sinceno claims the job description included the same duties she regularly performed. She was told she could interview for the job, but was not guaranteed to get it. In fact, she did not get the job and was let go in April 2016.

Sinceno claims the head of the events department wanted “a different look” for the role. The person eventually hired for the events coordinator job was a young Caucasian woman, according to the complaint, who received a higher rate of pay than Sinceno as well as full benefits.

“Riverside discriminated against Ms. Sinceno on the basis of her age and/or her race, by terminating her employment for no legitimate non-discriminatory reason, by showing a marked preference for less qualified younger and Caucasian applicants, by paying her young/Caucasian replacements at a higher rate of pay, and by classifying them as employees entitled to full employee benefits,” the complaint states.

Sinceno also claims that, although she frequently worked more than 40 hours a week, she never received overtime. 

Moreover, Riverside retaliated against her after learning of her intention to pursue legal claims by not allowing her to sing at church services and events. This retaliation injured Sinceno, “because she lost the religious and spiritual value of participating in church services and events.”

The case was filed in the Southern District of New York by Deborah Karpatkin of New York City.

Image Source: BriYYZ (Flickr)