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The state Division of Human Rights found no wrongdoing by the Westchester County Board of Elections stemming from an Armonk woman’s claim that she was denied an election inspector post because of her physical condition.
However, Geri Mariano, who filed the complaint in October, said last week she will formally appeal the decision and has been in contact with the state Attorney General’s office in hopes it will investigate the matter further.
Mariano, who had worked as an inspector for about 30 years at the Election District 6 site in North Castle, was not assigned for the 2021 election by the Westchester County Board of Elections. She turned down being moved to another district’s polling site or to work as a poll entrance worker, a person who greets arriving voters and directs them to the correct table.
However, she was offered those positions for Election Day in late October 2021 after trying to confront Board of Elections officials in person at the White Plains office.
Mariano, who was born with Diastrophic Dysplasia, a form of dwarfism and has used a wheelchair since 2014, said the finding by the Division of Human Rights was “crushing.”
“There’s a reasonable expectation that if you’ve been in that position for so long, there needs to be some explanation as to why you’re not there anymore,” Mariano said.
In the decision dated Apr. 30 that didn’t reach Mariano until May 23, Division of Human Rights Regional Director Linda Fenstermaker wrote that there was “no probable cause” for discrimination. Mariano was offered a job as an election inspector at another site or as a poll entrance worker, which is also referred to as an ambassador, at the same rate of pay. Therefore, there is no reason to find the Board of Elections discriminated against her or acted improperly, Fenstermaker concluded.
“(T)he evidence does not support a probable cause finding that Respondent’s failure to reassign her to her preferred posting was due to her disabilities and any predisposing genetic characteristic she may have,” Fenstermaker stated in the decision. “Among other things, Complainant has the burden of demonstrating that she was subjected to adverse employment action under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination and that there was a causal connection between the adverse employment action and her protected characteristic. To be actionable, the employment action alleged must be more disruptive than a mere inconvenience.”
Mariano said she has 60 days to appeal the decision and intends to file that before the deadline. She indicated that her decision to appeal is to highlight her plight even if she isn’t successful.
“Even if I don’t win, I feel if I appeal the light will continue to be shined on this,” she said.
In addition to her appeal and the hope that the Attorney General’s office will take up the matter, Mariano said she will continue to proactively pursue her old position. She will participate in this week’s training for poll workers in Bedford to make herself eligible for this year’s election.
Mariano had said last fall that she noticed a change in the Board of Elections treatment of her starting in 2016, two years after she needed a wheelchair full-time.
She didn’t work the 2015 election because of the death of her parents. Mariano returned the next year, but claimed she wasn’t given anything to do.
Mariano wasn’t assigned in 2017, then worked on Election Day in 2018 and 2019. Because of a shortage of poll workers in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, Mariano said she hoped to work but wasn’t assured that a friend could periodically check on her during the 16-hour day.
She decided to withdraw herself from consideration after failing to receive permission to have friends check on her throughout the 16-hour day.
Fenstermaker stated that incidents from before the 2021 election could not be considered because it was outside the Division of Human Rights’ one-year statute of limitations for review.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/