The Examiner

Ex-No. Castle Employee Files Age Discrimination Complaint Against Town

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A former longtime North Castle employee has filed a complaint with the state Division of Human Rights against the town alleging that her layoff last year and immediate replacement was “blatant” age discrimination.

Armonk resident Linda DiFiore, 71, a senior office assistant and secretary to the Architectural Board of Review and Zoning Board of Appeals, accused Supervisor Howard Arden and council members John Cronin and Diane DiDonato-Roth of discrimination in her Feb. 4 complaint to the agency. DiFiore was first employed by the town on a part-time basis in 1979 and was moved to a full-time on Jan. 1, 1980, until her retirement in August 2011.

Before her retirement, she was approached by former Building Inspector and Superintendent of Public Works Richard Fon, who asked if she was interested in continuing on a part-time basis. The previous town board agreed to bring DiFiore back to work for 21 hours a week starting on Sept. 1, 2011.

On August 28, 2012, the current board’s three-member majority voted to abolish DiFiore’s part-time position, which was effective three days later. About two weeks after that, the board voted to hire Lori Zawacki, who performs the same responsibilities as DiFiore but earns nearly $15 an hour less and works 17 hours a week.

“In conclusion, upon facts, information and belief, the Town of North Castle’s action to lay me off and to replace me almost immediately with an employee who is at least fifteen (15) years of age younger than myself was a blatant act of age discrimination, pursuant to, but not solely limited to, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act,” DiFiore’s complaint read in part.

DiFiore could not be reached for comment last week. It is not known whether she would consider filing a lawsuit following the adjudication of the age discrimination complaint.

Arden said he believes the complaint is without merit and was done solely to try to embarrass the board.

“She’s retired, fully retired,” Arden said. “This was an efficiency move (on the town’s part) done solely for financial purposes.”

DiFiore’s complaint stated that in addition to Zawacki’s hourly salary of $26.50, she also receives $150 for each of the Architectural Board of Review and Zoning Board of Appeals’ monthly meetings. During her year-long move to part-time status, DiFiore earned $41 an hour in addition to the pay to attend the two boards’ meeting, Arden said.

Roberto Chavez, regional director for the Division of Human Rights at its Peekskill office, acknowledged receipt of the complaint. He said the town’s legal counsel had requested and received an extension to March 8 respond to the complaint. Without that extension, the town would have had to respond within 15 calendar days and could have faced penalties or even an adverse finding against it had the deadline been missed.

Chavez said that he will examine the complaint and determine whether there is enough evidence to refer the matter to an administrative law judge. The judge determines whether discrimination took place.

Following that, the agency’s commissioner makes the final call on whether there has been discrimination and whether any penalties should be levied, Chavez said. Generally, the process takes about six months to complete.





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