Englewood facing another discrimination suit, this time by a DPW worker

Katie Sobko

ENGLEWOOD — A third discrimination complaint has been filed against the city, this time targeting the Department of Public Works.

Employee Gaby Nelson filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court in Bergen County last week naming the city, its DPW and Raymond Romney, a supervisor in the department.

Nelson, a DPW employee since 2002 who is of Haitian Creole descent, is alleging unlawful discrimination and retaliation on the basis of national origin, as well as a hostile work environment.

According to the complaint, Nelson went to Romney in June to complain that he had to spend a lot of time during his shifts moving DPW trucks and locating keys. He was told that he could use a designated truck, which Romney said would be taken to a mechanic to ensure that it was safe for use.

Nelson alleges that a few days later, when he went to pick up his paycheck, Romney asked him about the truck he used and then said, “Why are all island men like that? If it was an American, it would be no problem.” Nelson claims he again asked for his paycheck and Romney said “What did President Trump call your country?”

According to the lawsuit, Nelson took that as a reference to comments made by Trump in 2018, when he referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” in a meeting with lawmakers. 

Nelson left the office to change out of his work clothes, then returned to collect his check. He says he complained about Romney’s comments a week later.

The suit says that “based on the City’s investigation, the City of Englewood found [Nelson’s] complaint to be 'credible and corrective action has been taken.’ ” Nelson says he was never advised as to what action was taken.

Nelson alleges that since then he has been subjected to retaliation, including not being offered overtime, despite being on the overtime list; repeatedly being assigned to trucks that he has complained are not safe for operation; being labeled a troublemaker and being subjected to disparate disciplinary action.

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The suit alleges national origin discrimination and a hostile work environment as well as retaliation, and asks for damages and attorney’s fees.

Englewood's city attorney could not be reached for comment. 

Last week, a prospective city firefighter alleged racial discrimination in a lawsuit over a withdrawn job offer in April 2019. The city’s Police Department was also named in two lawsuits filed this summer that accuse the force of threatening residents with false arrests and displaying racial bias when promoting officers.

Katie Sobko is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: sobko@northjersey.com  Twitter: @katesobko