HE DIDN’T ‘LEAVE THE DIRT HERE’

HE DIDN’T ‘LEAVE THE DIRT HERE’: Christopher Fulgieri, a veteran Laborer at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, was found by the Board of Collective Bargaining to have been the victim of retaliation for complaining about his treatment, with a key piece of evidence being a taped comment by a supervisor who said she had told him to ‘leave the dirt here. Don’t go running upstairs and say [you’re] not getting overtime.’

A Laborer who alleged that his supervisors at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services retaliated against him because he complained about workplace issues including how overtime was assigned has won his claim before the Board of Collective Bargaining.

In addition to losing tens of thousands of dollars in potential overtime, Christopher Fulgieri alleged he had been reassigned to another shop over his objection as payback for bringing the issues to the attention of his union and DCAS’s Office of Labor Relations.

‘Make Him Whole’

In finding for Mr. Fulgieri, a Laborer since 2006, the BCB ordered his agency to return him to his previous position and make him “whole for any financial loss,” and post the order where other DCAS employees could read it.

His attorney, Stuart Lichten, said that the final award from the city could be between $60,000 and $70,000. During a phone interview, Mr. Fulgieri said at the very least it would be tens of thousands of dollars to compensate him for the lost overtime that came with his forced transfer.

According to the BCB decision, he started raising issues about his supervisors in December 2016 when he complained about how his time cards were filled out, because they did not accurately reflect the range of crafts he was assigned to. That omission, he believed, hindered his chances for promotion.

In February 2017, at a meeting with DCAS management and a representative from his union, District Council 37’s Laborers Local 924, Mr. Fulgieri questioned how overtime was being distributed and how his daily work assignments were being documented, and made allegations of nepotism.

A Forced Transfer

On March 2, 2018, he was informed by DCAS Director of Labor Relations Michael Slutsky that he was going to be transferred to the agency’s storehouse in Queens.

Mr. Fulgieri protested that he would see a major loss in overtime income as a result of the involuntary transfer. Local 924 President Kyle Simmons, who was present, argued that DCAS had to provide his member 30 days’ notice. According to the BCB decision, Mr. Slutsky responded that there was no such contractual requirement. Mr. Simmons then threatened to file a grievance.

In its findings, the BCB relied on a tape recording that was covertly made by one of Mr. Fulgieri’s fellow Laborers at a meeting on March 3 that he attended with DCAS Department Director Mary Padovano and other Laborers.

On the tape Ms. Padovano said, “Well I’m gonna tell you-all this…Last year I sat in this room with Chris [Fulgieri] and told him, 'leave the dirt here. Don’t go running upstairs and say I’m not getting overtime. Listen—you’re not happy with something, you come to me.' ”

A ‘Clear’ Threat

“In Padovano’s March 3, 2018 speech she explicitly stated that Petitioner [Fulgieri] was transferred because he made comments regarding the workplace,” the BCB wrote. “Petitioner contends that Padovano’s message was clear to the Laborers that anyone who takes his complaint to the Union, or to Labor Relations, “can expect swift retribution.”

“When Padovano addressed the Laborers to explain why petitioner was transferred, she stated that the transfer occurred because petitioner ‘brought light’ to himself by making complaints to Labor Relations about overtime assignments, rather than keeping the ‘dirt’ in-house…These statements clearly demonstrate animus towards Petitioner’s protected union activity: the complaints he made to Labor Relations,” the decision stated.

DCAS declined to comment.

“I will be transferred back and I will get my overtime back and it is also going to protect the other laborers and other workers from this happening to them,” Mr. Fulgieri said in a phone interview. “It’s not only a victory for me but it is a victory for all of us.”

‘Follow Rules They Make’

He said that because of DCAS’s central role in administering hiring and promotion exams and procedures for the city government, it had to set a good example with its own workforce. “They make the rules, so they should abide by the rules,” he said.

Getting the complaint filed and adjudicated took a year and a half.

“My lawyer, Stuart Lichten, did an excellent job in defending me, so I wouldn’t have changed that,” Mr. Fulgieri said. “But I do wish the union would have stepped up and helped me in some way, especially being that I had to pay the lawyer fees out of my pocket and I did ask numerous times for the union to help and they have refused.”

Efforts to get a response from Mr. Simmons were unsuccessful.

“One guy can make a difference,” Mr. Lichten said in a phone interview. “But you have to have patience because some of these cases can take years.”

He continued, “In this case we had the gold standard in terms of evidence, a Supervisor on tape.” Mr. Lichten noted that unlike New Jersey or even Washington D.C., in New York State all it takes is one party to a conversation to consent for it to be legally recorded.


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