Former Employee Files Lawsuit Against Am. Samoa Congressman

admin's picture

Faleomavaega’s office says suit over termination ‘baseless’

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Oct. 31, 2014) – An eight count civil action suit was filed yesterday at the federal court in Washington D.C. against Congressman Faleomavaega’s Office in the nation’s capital.

The 14-page suit by Victor E. Salazar, a former employee of the Congressman’s D.C. office, accuses the defendant with one count of violation of prohibition of intimidation or reprisal; five counts of civil rights violations; and two counts of violating the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Salazar, who worked for the Congressman’s office for two years before he was terminated on Nov. 18 last year, is seeking a jury trial.

When contacted around 3p.m. yesterday for comments, Faleomavaega’s chief of staff for the local office, Faiivae Alex Godinet said the Congressman was not in his office at the time. Samoa News sought comments with an email inquiry and phone call, but there was no immediate response from the Congressman.

[PIR editor’s note: Samoa News later reported that ‘Fai’ivae Alex Godinet, chief of staff of Congressman Faleomavaega’s local District Office has called a civil action lawsuit against the Congressman’s office in Washington D.C. "baseless" and "without merit."’]

(Samoa News should point out that it received a copy of the lawsuit via email, around 3p.m. — at that time, Samoa News then checked with the federal court record site, which confirmed the suit had been filed.)

INTIMIDATION

The complaint alleges that Dr. Lisa Williams, the chief of staff for the D.C. Office, engaged in hostile and demeaning behavior towards plaintiff on a number of occasions, including but not limited to a discussion on October 30, 2013.

In that discussion, Williams is alleged to have "publicly chastised" plaintiff for not spending his own funds to purchase a MacBook power cord while "callously disregarding" plaintiff’s explanation that he would have made the purchase but did not have the funds available because he had recently sent all spare money to his family to help with funeral expenses for his maternal grandmother who had died in American Samoa last year.

Later on Oct. 30 last year, during a meeting in which Williams expressed alleged concerns about him, plaintiff stated to Williams that he believed they should bring their discussion to the Office of Compliance (of the U.S. Congress).

The complaint alleges that when the plaintiff returned to his desk following the meeting, he collapsed onto the ground and experienced loss of sensation in his arms and became distressed that he might be having a heart attack. He was ultimately taken to a hospital on Capitol Hill where he was informed by a doctor that he had experienced an anxiety attack and he was instructed to avoid stressful situations.

The plaintiff alleged the intimidation count stems from the October meeting as well as the one in November when — on both occasions — he suggested taking the discussion to the Office of Compliance.

CIVIL RIGHTS

Among the civil rights violations alleged in the complaint is that the defendant discriminated against plaintiff based upon race, religion and national origin when the defendant employed a non-Hispanic attorney as Legislative Counsel at a higher rate of pay than plaintiff; and when defendant unfairly criticized the plaintiff’s work.

(The complaint alleges that the Legislative Counsel — identified as Ta’afili Ioane Sagapolutele — is Mormon and a Samoan, while plaintiff is Catholic and predominantly Samoan and Hispanic/ Latino. It also states that Faleomavaega and Dr. Williams are Mormons. )

Furthermore, the defendant — through Williams — discriminated against plaintiff based upon sex when it "employed an attorney whose self-expression, mannerisms and behavior are less traditionally masculine, or are perceived as less masculine, as Legislative Counsel at a higher rate of pay than Plaintiff."

It’s also alleged that the defendant intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of sex when he terminated his employment.

According to the complaint, these actions by the defendant were of a continuing nature and constituted a hostile work environment.

FMLA ALLEGATION

The suit claims that the defendant interfered with the defendant’s right to request and receive leave under the FMLA for a serious health condition, which is a condition requiring multiple treatments.

Additionally, defendant interfered with Plaintiff's rights by terminating his employment because Plaintiff had requested FMLA leave.

CONCLUSION

The plaintiff is asking the court that he be awarded, among other things, $300,000 in compensatory damages for extreme embarrassment, humiliation and mental anguish; and damages equal to the amount of wages and benefits Plaintiff would have earned had he not been terminated.

He is also asking the court for an order requiring Defendant to reinstate Plaintiff as Legislative Counsel with a salary both commensurate with his experience with defendant and comparable to that of Sagapolutele.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment