A former employee of Northeast Parent and Child Society is suing the organization, claiming discrimination based on her race and national origin.
Beatriz Aviles filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Albany last week. A spokesman for the Schenectady-based agency said he couldn’t comment on Aviles’ case specifically, but he said officials at Northeast investigate any complaint that comes in and don’t discriminate against anyone.
Aviles worked for Northeast from April 2010 until her resignation in February 2013. She describes herself in the suit as a Hispanic woman of Puerto Rican descent. She is seeking punitive damages of no less than $5 million and compensatory damages of no less than $500,000.
It was her Hispanic background that was the target of much of the harassment, she alleges in the suit.
During much of that time there, she alleges she was subjected to racist drawings and even cans of Goya beans left on her desk.
She also says she knows who was behind the harassment and believes it was a supervisor, but said Northeast ultimately “stonewalled” the investigation.
Aviles alleges that during her first year there, “explicit and offensive drawings” were left in her locked office.
“Each of these drawings was racist and designed to harass Ms. Aviles based on her Puerto Rican descent,” the suit reads.
Some of the harassment also targeted food Aviles ate, including a drawing of dead fish, apparently meant to represent a lunch she brought to work. The drawing included a circle with a line through it. In another instance, there was a drawing of a Puerto Rican flag on a post-it note with an X across the flag and the words “no rice no beans.”
The sniping at her food led Aviles to avoid eating in the office, the result being a worsening of her Parkinson’s disease. She must eat on a regular schedule to control her symptoms, the suit reads.
There were also cans of Goya beans left on her desk, the suit alleges, some with a drawing of the Puerto Rican flag wrapped around them.
In one instance, Aviles alleges in the suit, a review of security camera footage could have identified the person putting the can on her desk. She says she complained to the director of human resources and was told that the video for that day was not available.
Eugene White, spokesman for Northeast Parent and Child Society, said Monday he could not comment on the suit or Aviles’ allegations specifically.
However, he said it is the policy of the agency to immediately and fully investigate any complaint.
Northeast is an equal opportunity employer, White said, and doesn’t discriminate against anyone in hiring or employment practices.
Aviles is represented in her suit by Hudson-based attorney Philip Wellner. He could not be reached for comment Monday.