A federal judge has refused to dismiss a Youngstown prosecutor’s religious discrimination suit against the city.
Basil Ally has been a Youngstown assistant city prosecutor for seven years. He had always taken a late lunch on Fridays so he could attend services at his mosque. But then Chief Prosecutor Jay Macejko called a Friday meeting Ally didn’t attend—because he had gone to his mosque. Macejko placed Ally on administrative leave.
Ally complained to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and then sued, alleging he had been discriminated against because of his Muslim faith. His lawsuit claims co-workers sometimes teased him, suggesting that he was connected to Islamic terrorists.
He listed the mayor and his boss, the city’s law director, as defendants. The court dismissed the mayor and city attorney from the suit, but allowed the case to move forward.
Note: What seem like simple jests between co-workers can sound very different to a jury if they’re introduced as evidence of discrimination in court. Employers have an obligation to stop all harassment based on ethnicity, race, color, national origin, gender or disability.
Meanwhile, in Portage County, another prosecutor suesTommie Jo Marsilio, a current Portage County commissioner and former assistant county prosecutor, is suing County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci, claiming she was fired because of language she used in one of her campaign brochures. Her lawsuit also alleges that during her tenure as a prosecutor from 2007 to 2009, she was paid less than men who performed the same or fewer duties.
The problem appears to have started when Marsilio published a campaign brochure stating, “The ‘Good Old Boys’ say elect Kevin Poland,’’ a reference to the then-mayor of Ravenna. In the brochure, Marsilio described herself as “not a member of the Ravenna ‘Good Old Boys’ corruption club.”
Vigluicci allegedly asked Marsilio to retract the brochure and apologize to Poland. When she refused, she says, she was fired.
In her complaint, she claims male attorneys in the office who had made similar statements were not disciplined. Marsilio contends her comments were political speech protected by the First Amendment.
Marsilio is seeking back pay, compensatory damages related to “humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress and general loss of enjoyment of life” and punitive damages due to wanton disregard for her rights.
Advice: Discrimination cases are often rooted in personality conflicts. Always be aware of that possibility when making firing decisions. Firing someone because you don’t like her—or her political views—is seldom a good business decision. If you consistently treat that person differently and the employee is a member of a protected group, you are well on the way to making the employee’s discrimination claim for her.