EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A noose found in a truck, a swastika and confederate flags in the workplace and derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants “heating up their rice and beans” are among the accusations in a second lawsuit filed against the Atlantic County Utilities Authority.
The lawsuit filed Oct. 2 by Angel Rodriguez, 34, of Egg Harbor Township, alleges he and employee Scott Henry, 34, of Atlantic City, found a noose in their ACUA work truck June 3. Henry, who is black, previously filed a lawsuit Aug. 17 regarding the discovery of the noose and similar allegations of racial discrimination and hostility.
“ACUA is aware of the lawsuit filed by Mr. Rodriguez. Our organization prides itself on the positive relationships among our team of diverse employees. At the advice of our attorney, however, we cannot discuss any information related to this pending litigation,” said Monica Coffey, ACUA communications manager.
Rodriguez, who is Puerto Rican, says in the lawsuit he has overheard derogatory comments about Latino workers while at work at the ACUA such as, “I don’t know why they let all these Mexican immigrants in here,” and, “They are always warming up their rice and beans.”
Two white employees have displayed confederate flags in their personal vehicles, and one employee has displayed a tattoo of a swastika that is visible when he wears his ACUA uniform, the lawsuit says.
After the noose was found in the truck, the lawsuit states, Rodriguez reported to work driving his wife’s Cadillac, and a white co-worker said to him, “No wonder they put a noose in your truck.”
Henry is a handler at ACUA and Rodriguez is a driver. Henry said he earns $36,000 annually; Rodriguez is paid $31,147. Both men are still working at ACUA, according to the authority.
Named in the lawsuit are ACUA President Rick Dovey, Michael Burton, operations manager and multiple unidentified people. Dovey is paid a salary $160,480, and Burton earns $85,680 annually.
As with Henry’s lawsuit, Rodriguez’s complaint was filed under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, alleging a hostile work environment on the basis of race.
Rodriguez, an employee since 2009, claims a noose was left in the truck of another black worker at the authority the same year, according to the lawsuit. Last month, Dovey confirmed the 2009 noose incident to the Press of Atlantic City. Neither Henry nor Rodriguez reported the noose incident in 2009.
“There has been an ongoing pattern of unlawful activity against employees who are not white. The severity of things that have happened in this workplace shouldn’t have happened,” said Lisa Marone, of Weintraub and Marone LLC., Rodriguez’s attorney.
The complaint claims Rodriguez was retaliated against and passed over for promotions at least three times while the position was given to a white and less qualified employee. Rodriguez also claims he was denied time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act for the birth of his child while a white employee was granted 12 weeks of FMLA leave.