Brooklyn Foster Service Provider Sued for Racial Discrimination, Wrongful Termination

A New York social services non-for-profit, Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services Inc., is facing a lawsuit by a former employee who claims she was discriminated against because of her race, then fired for complaining about it.

According to their website, Ohel provides foster services for Jewish children.

Kimberly Sylvester, an African-American woman, was hired by Ohel in 2010 as a residential rehabilitation counselor. She claims she was a diligent and exemplary employee.

Sylvester claims that during her time working for Ohel, many of its “employees participated in the discriminatory and hostile work environment created by [the company],” the complaint states.

In the winter of 2012, Sylvester was talking with a coworker who told her “black people are stupid and lazy,” according to the complaint. She says she reported the discriminatory remarks, but no corrective action was taken. 

Another coworker, believing Sylvester was Hispanic, said to her “all white people who aren’t Jewish are Nazis and all Spanish men are rapists and Spanish women are only good for being maids,” the complaint states. Again, no action was taken by Ohel after Sylvester reported the derogatory comment.

Sylvester claims several similar episodes occurred where discriminatory remarks were made but no action was taken by Ohel.

Sylvester also claims that she reported several instances of coworkers committing billing fraud against government entities. She believes Ohel retaliated against her making these charges by progressively lowering her salary from $43,783.74 in 2013 to $21,754.55 by 2016.

In April 2015 Ohel held a company-wide meeting to address the billing fraud issue, according to the complaint. A supervisor assured the employees that there would be no retaliation in the future for reports of these violations. Sylvester claims, however, that assurance was not kept because thirty minutes after the meeting another supervisor told her that she would be losing some of her shifts.

Sylvester claims that, “[o]n or around March 8, 2017, in retaliation for [her] frequent complaints of racial discrimination and billing fraud, . . . Ohel terminated [her].”

Sylvester is represented by Paul Liggieri of New York city who filed the case in the Eastern District of New York.

Image Source: Johnny Silvercloud (Flickr)