Mary Williams, African-American Nassau County Corrections Officer, Files Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Nassau County and the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department for Racial Discrimination, Harassment, Cover-Up and Failure to Address Abuses

December 14, 2015

On December 14, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. at The Law Offices of Frederick K. Brewington, located at 556 Peninsula Blvd., Hempstead, New York 11550, Officer Mary Williams, a Nassau County Corrections Officer, who is an African-American woman, will be joined by members of several law enforcement and community groups to announce the filing of her Federal Lawsuit for the perpetrating, allowing, encouraging, condoning, failing to address, and attempting to cover up a hostile work environment based on race and opposition to discriminatory practices, and by the indifference to a partial swastika and letters “KKK,” which were in full view of Plaintiff and other employees within the workplace with malicious intent and alternatively a clear, reckless and unlawful disregard for the racial animus displayed by such an act in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1988.

On September 16, 2014, Ms. Williams noticed a swastika and the letters “KKK” carved into the doorframe by her post. Ms. Williams was disturbed and severely upset that these racially based sketches were in an area accessible on1y to employees. She notified her supervisor and, when no action was taken, she contacted Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Director Mary Elisabeth Ostermann. In their meeting, Ms. Williams was advised that there was nothing that could be done and that “they didn’t offer any sensitivity training.” In addition, Ms. Ostermann failed to conduct an investigation and did not call any witnesses to corroborate Ms. Williams’ claims.

After filing the first report, Ms. Williams alleged that she was subject to increased hostility from co-workers. Ms. Williams was yelled at by a fellow officer in an aggressive tone and was so afraid that she had to leave work. She felt that this action was a direct response to her expressing concerns of racism towards herself and her fellow African-American co-workers. Because of her fear, Ms. Williams began to miss work in order to avoid being in the same area where the offensive markings were discovered.

According to its written policy, the Nassau County Corrections Department encourages the reporting of all perceived incidents of discrimination and is supposed to investigate all such reports. In this case, the department failed to follow its own policy. Ms. Williams followed procedure in the necessary time period by reporting the incident to the proper channels. The EEO failed to investigate her claim and to interview both Ms. Williams and her witnesses. The agency was directed to make the necessary people available to interview, but failed to produce them throughout the investigation.

On May 28, 2015, Leon C. Dimaya, the Acting Director of the New York State Division of Human Rights, reviewed the evidence and determined that Probable Cause existed that the Nassau County Corrections Department engaged in and/or are engaging in unlawful discriminatory practice. Ms. Williams has decided to proceed to Federal Court.

The press is invited to join Officer Williams and other members of the community and the community at large on December 14, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. at the Law Offices of Frederick K. Brewington, located at 556 Peninsula Blvd., Hempstead, New York 11550.