BOROUGH HALL — Borough President Marty Markowitz’s former speechwriter is suing him for discrimination. And though the lawsuit was filed over two years ago, depositions are finally underway — with Markowtz being deposed on Friday.
In the lawsuit filed in Kings County Supreme Court in December 2007, the then-50-year-old woman claims that the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President subjected her to age- and gender-related discrimination, and forced her to resign from her position as Markowitz’s communication director.
The plaintiff, Regina Weiss, alleges in her complaint that the borough president’s then-chief of staff Gregory Atkins “engaged in discriminatory actions to undermine Plaintiff’s ability to perform the essential functions of her position while simultaneously creating a pervasively hostile work environment for Plaintiff as a result of her gender and age.”
She is suing for lost wages, future earnings, pain and suffering, and mental and emotional stress. The lawsuit alleges Atkins “commenced a campaign of disparate treatment” against Weiss immediately upon her return to the office.
At the time of the filing of the lawsuit, Markowitz’s office said that the “unfounded claims should be taken in context — they are from a disgruntled former employee who was dismissed.”
“We are confident that we will prevail in this case. The Brooklyn Borough President has always, and will continue, to employ a diverse group of talented staff in his office,” said Diana Goell Voigt, senior counsel at the New York City Law Department, which is representing Markowitz’s office.
Weiss, who previously worked as Markowitz’s speechwriter, had resigned from that job in 2003, working elsewhere for 18 months. She returned to work for the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President as communications director in January 2005, after Markowitz’s consistent and repeated appeals for her to return to work for him, according to the complaint.
The complaint does not make any claims that Markowitz himself engaged in any discriminatory conduct. In fact, according to Weiss’ claims, Markowitz was thrilled to have her return to work and was confident in her abilities.
However, Weiss claims that “Atkins’ actions, statements and omissions all served to intentionally undermine Defendant Markowitz’s confidence in Plaintiff’s abilities, with the goal of having Plaintiff fired.”
Markowitz is individually named as a defendant in this lawsuit, along with the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President. Atkins is not individually named, though the complaint is based almost entirely on the alleged discrimination by him. According to Weiss, Atkins favored younger male employees, both in the workplace and as potential candidates for employment.
On January 31, 2006, one year after Weiss was hired, Atkins told Weiss that she was being asked to resign, because the agency was “changing direction over the next four years” and they wanted someone in her position “who can test the political waters,” according to the complaint.
Furthermore, Atkins allegedly refused to discuss Weiss’ concerns regarding the possible misuse of the office for political purposes during Markowitz’s re-election campaign. This was done in order to undermine Weiss, according to the complaint, though it does not elaborate on this claim.
The complaint also makes mention of some possible “inappropriate sexual activity” regarding Atkins and three other employees, though again, does not elaborate, nor does it allege that any such activity involved or affected Weiss.