NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission has agreed to look into allegations of discrimination by Guadalupe Mournir, a cleaner working at Ward Elementary School, who claims to have endured years of harassment in the City School District of New Rochelle. This according to records obtained by Talk of the Sound.
The complaint comes after weeks of back and forth between Mournir, her union (F.U.S.E.) and the City School District of New Rochelle. It focuses on Jennifer Rippa-Jones but also names F.U.S.E. President Martin Daly and her direct supervisor Martin Freiman, an Assistant Custodian working for the District.
The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, a part of the U.S. Department of Labor, enforces the laws against discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, disability or genetic information.
Mournir claims that the harassment has been based on her Race, and National Origin and has taken on the form of Retaliation for past complaints within the District. Mournir was born in Mexico.
By its failure to act on her complaints which she says go back to 2003, she claims the District has created a Hostile Environment, where she has been subject to Verbal Harassment, Racism, Work Bullying, and Defamation of Character.
According to the complaint, the most recent incident occurred on October 16, 2014 when Rippa-Jones approached Mournir at the school and said “Open the conference room.” Mournir said that she had been previously instructed by Ward Principal Franco Miele not to open doors that had been locked for the day as part of a new security policy at the school. Mournir says that when she refused to open the door, citing the new security policy, Rippa-Jones screamed at her, saying “I’m tired of your attitude” and then launched into a discriminatory rant.
Mournir claims Rippa-Jones said “How can you drive a better car than me” and “Mexican people eat only rice and beans” and “I’m a teacher and can’t afford (a car like yours).”
The union is representing Rippa-Jones. A senior union official, who agreed to comment on background, said that Rippa-Jones has denied the allegations.
Rippa-Jones is the daughter of Vincent Rippa, a lawyer who was the Mayor of New Rochelle from 1975 to 1979. Among Rippa’s clients is the City School District of New Rochelle. He was retained several years ago at the behest of school board member David Lacher to represent the school district in tax certioris hearings even though the District has no role in such hearings.
According to the EEOC filing, Mournir began working for the City School District of New Rochelle in 1999 on a part-time basis as a Food Services worker. She was hired full-time in 2006 and is currently a cleaner earning $47,000 a year.
Martin Freiman was suspended for 30 days in 2008 for having engaged in racial and ethnic harassment while working at Jefferson Elementary School. The New Rochelle Board of Education had initially accepted a recommendation not to suspend Freiman but then-school board member Martin Sanchez objected and threatened to make his concerns public during a board meeting. After a brief executive session the board reconsidered and suspend Freiman for a month without pay. Six months after the suspension, Freiman was given a raise, backdated six months, that largely offset the amount of income he lost during his unpaid suspension.
Freiman had a a history of similar racist behavior, sources say. The board was reluctant to act in the Freiman case because they had, earlier that year, had to contend with a media firestorm involving Phil Carino, a supervisor at Isaac E. Young Middle School. Carino admitted that he had strung up stuffed animals, including a stuffed monkey, with nooses to harass a black employee. The district initially failed to take significant disciplinary action. The noose incident became public with the N.A.A.C.P brought a lawsuit against the district. Eventually, the board voted to suspend the employee for three weeks and convened a full day of “sensitivity” training for district personnel. He was later allowed to quietly resign.
Mournir claimed the way that F.U.S.E. President Martin Daly and Joe Williams, Assistant to the Superintendent for Human Resources, handled the issue was discriminatory.
“I have been complaining for many years to my supervisors and they have not done anything,” wrote Mournir in her complaint.
She claims she asked for assistance from supervisors verbally and in writing for many years but did not receive assistance.
Asked by the EEOC how her employer responded to her request for assistance, Mournir said “At first they didn’t want to hear me. On October 17th, I went to the union.” Mournir then turned to Martin Sanchez for help. Sanchez is a former school board member, a labor lawyer and a person well-known in the New Rochelle hispanic community for seeking justice for hispanic residents.
Mournir goes on to identify two witnesses – Mike Tozzo (F.U.S.E. Vice President for Service Related Professionals) and Martin Sanchez — who were both present when Williams cancelled a meeting set up to discuss Mournir’s concerns which she now claims is part of the harassment.