A lawsuit accusing Bergen County and two employees of anti-Semitism toward a former employee is in its infancy but moving forward, the plaintiff’s attorney told The Jewish Standard this week.
Jack Lovett, 76, of Fort Lee began a part-time job at Teaneck’s Overpeck County Golf Course in March ‘000. He alleges that coworkers created a hostile environment for him because of his religion and that anti-Semitism led to his eventual dismissal in ‘006. He filed a lawsuit in January for monetary damages, including loss of wages, back pay, and future pay.
"Mr. Lovett was an employee of the county working for the Overpeck golf course and was subjected to heinous comments regarding his Jewish faith," said Jamison Mark of Basking Ridge, Lovett’s attorney. "Our case is based on those comments being heard by several people."
The legal teams are continuing their fact-finding process, which is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 1.
According to the suit, employees at the golf course subjected Lovett to anti-Semitic slurs such as "Jack the Jew" and "Jew bastard." Employees also allegedly said, "Jews should move out of the way for Italians" and "Those Germans did the right things to the Jews." The suit contends that the slurs originated with employee Anthony Lacetola, but alleges that other employees took part as well.
Lovett complained to managers Steve Rado and Kevin Purcell, named as defendants in the lawsuit, who moved Lovett to different shifts, sometimes pairing him with the offending employees.
"Nothing was done to remove Mr. Lovett from the situation or to remove the individuals making these horrible statements," Mark said.
In ‘005, another employee, William Willet, accused Lovett of allowing golfers to play the back nine holes for free. Willet had also been one of the offend ers at the golf course, according to Lovett’s attorney. In ‘006, Lovett was accused of illegally selling equipment out of his locker and car, which the lawsuit maintains is a common and accepted practice for all employees.
On March ‘4, ‘006, Lovett allegedly received a phone call from a golf course employee who said, "I was told that I had to fire you." When Lovett asked why, the employee said, "It came from upstairs." No further explanation was given.
Lovett’s attorney told the Standard that one of the offending employees was promoted to a full-time position at the same time Lovett was fired.
"That was one of the reasons they got Jack out of there so they could bring a buddy into a full-time position," he said. "[Lovett] should still be working there and enjoying his life and his latter years. Because of nothing more than the bigotry that occurred and the greed of employment, he’s no longer in a great position working his twilight years as a golf ranger."
John Shahdanian II, the attorney representing Bergen County, said that it is the county’s policy not to comment on current litigation.
Mark predicted that the case would likely go to trial in the spring of ‘009. In addition to testimony from Lovett, Mark said his office had obtained statements from people who had witnessed the harassment, including the late mayor of Ridgefield Park, Fred Criscuolo, who died shortly after filing the statement.
"It wasn’t a high-paying job but it was a job that [Lovett] loved and something that he truly looked forward to going to every day," said Mark.
"Something like this is extremely appalling. He should still be working there and enjoying his life and his latter years."