New York State Labor Department Sued over Antisemitism

The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) is facing a lawsuit filed by an attorney who used to work for it for discriminating against him based on his religion, retaliating against him after he complained, and terminating him.

Fredy Kaplan, a male Jewish attorney in his fifties, was hired by the DOL in March 2015 as a senior attorney in the office of general counsel, according to the complaint. Kaplan claims he received positive performance reviews and incremental pay raises throughout his tenure.

In 2015 Kaplan supervised the work of three junior attorneys, one of whom, J.R. Pichardo, “frequently obstructed [Kaplan’s] directives and refused both his direction and training.” He also harassed other junior associates and “his behavior interfered with the operations of the department and created significant strife in the workplace,” according to the complaint.

In addition, Pichardo made an anti-Semitic statement while in Kaplan’s presence. Kaplan later became aware that Pichardo also referred to him as a “Jew lawyer.”

Kaplan contacted supervisors to complain about Pichardo’s harassment of coworkers and anti-Semitic comments and was informed that they would file a complaint with the human resources department.

After the complaint was filed, Kaplan was interviewed by human resources in January 2016, after which he received a letter confirming that Pichardo had made the anti-Semitic comments and created a hostile work environment, but that no corrective action would be taken.

In April 2017, the DOL deputy commissioner asked if Kaplan had fabricated the allegations he had made against Pichardo and Kaplan “vehemently denied” doing so. He was later accused of confessing to fabricating the allegations, but again, denied doing so and pointed to the letter he received from human resources confirming Pichardo’s behavior.

Kaplan claims he continued to perform his job duties satisfactorily. But in October 2017 he was confronted by DOL with the choice of either resigning or being terminated. When asked for a reason, Kaplan says he was not given one. When he refused to resign, Kaplan was terminated, according to the complaint.

Kaplan claims he “was discriminated against because of his religious beliefs and was terminated in retaliation for his lawful complaints of discrimination.”

Kaplan is represented by Saul Zabell of Behemia, New York who filed the case in the Southern District of New York.