Nassau County Corrections Officer and Ordained Minister Wins $420,000 Jury Verdict in Wrongful Discrimination Case

Plaintiff Denied Reasonable Religious Accommodations within the Department, Faced Retaliatory Actions
September 18, 2014

Frederick K. Brewington of the Law Offices of Frederick K. Brewington has announced that a New York State District Court awarded a jury verdict in the amount of $420,000 to his client, Jonathan Wharton. The jury found that the defendants — Nassau County, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Elizabeth Loconsolo, Captain Peter Dudek, Captain Anthony Zuarro, Sergeant Gerard Humphreys and Mary Elisabeth Ostermann — engaged in a pattern of discrimination against Mr. Wharton and retaliated against Mr. Wharton because of his complaints he filed against the department.

Mr. Wharton currently serves as a Nassau County Corrections Officer and as an ordained minister. He joined the agency in 1988. During his service, he was also a Public Information Officer. While performing an internship to be a substance abuse counselor, a fellow intern, who was white, was promoted to Employee Assistance Program Coordinator, despite starting his internship after Mr. Wharton did.

Mr. Wharton expressed to Sergeant Humphreys his interest in becoming an EAP Coordinator. A notice of a civil service exam for the position was announced but Mr. Wharton said the minority candidates were notified at the last minute, thereby denying them the opportunity to prepare for the exam. When Mr. Wharton made these charges public, in 2001, he was demoted from his position as Public Information Officer. In addition, Mr. Wharton was denied personal leave for religious holidays. His duties as a minister were also curtailed when the defendants began to deny him access to the chapel.

He filed a series of complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights, but his requests were denied. As a result of his complaints, Mr. Wharton was subject to retaliatory actions by the defendants, causing Mr. Wharton to suffer from mental and emotional health issues. In 2011, he filed a lawsuit with the New York State District Court, Eastern District Court of New York. On September 17, 2014, a jury found in favor of Mr. Wharton and rendered a verdict award of $420,000.

“We are glad to see the jury rule in favor of our client,” Mr. Brewington said. “Mr. Wharton was a victim of systematic retaliation and was constantly denied requests for reasonable religious accommodations. These actions caused undue stress on our client’s mental and emotional health. We are pleased to see Mr. Wharton financially compensated for his ordeal.”