September 4, 2008
David E. Powell
New York State
Division of Human Rights
Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building
163 West 125th Street, Room 401
New York, NY 10027
Re: Case No. 10126862
Dear Mr. Powell,
The prompt response offered by the New York State Division of Human Rights (“SDHR”) in regards to my most recent complaint is appreciated. I offer this written rebuttal to the respondent’s reply:
Although the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (” JBFCS”) was engaged in an agency-wide review of its petty cash accounts, as was stated within their written response to my charges, I suspected that other office managers of JBFCS were not receiving desk audits of petty cash accounts as often as me. My suspicions were proven accurate on July 23, 2008 when Karen Garcia-Vasquez, Office Manager of JBFC’s Northern Manhattan program reported to me that her account had been audited just once, in May, before Sandra Kuusisto of the Finance Office left her position at the Jewish Board. Ms. Kuusisto left JBFCS on May 2, 2008. I have been audited three times since May and six times in 2008, including a surprise inspection by Richard Clausen of Labor Relations on January 29, 2008.
No other employees working at the Youth Counseling League (“YCL”), the program where I serve as office manager have received “desk audits” . It appeared discriminatory to be the only staff member at my program subject to routine, unannounced desk audits. If the respondent had audited my accounts and desk at the same rate as other employees who have not requested “reasonable accommodation”, I would not have found it necessary to file these charges.
Based on the excessive number of audits of the account for which I serve as custodian, I had justification to believe I was being retaliated against for filing two prior complaints with SDHR. This does not make me an “obsessive filer” as the respondent has implied. Audits conducted in my office were unannounced or ‘surprise’ audits, despite requests made to my supervisor, Janet Johnson, and YCL supervisor Maria Barreto, that the ‘surprises’ stop because they were causing me to become paranoid. Filing this charge is not abuse of the processes of the SDHR. I was being refused reasonable accommodation. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifies that employees with mental disabilities who are “otherwise qualified” are entitled to reasonable accommodation at work. My mental disability falls into a category considered “severe” by most mental health professionals and positive symptoms of my illness include: paranoid thoughts, anxiety and hallucinations. The respondent boasts of a 100 year history of treating individuals with my illness, yet they seem to exist for the sheer purpose of harassing the mentally ill.
I worked professionally with JBFCS internal auditor Nailah Dawson on three occasions between January 2008 and June 2008. YCL’s petty cash account proved to be in order during these reviews. I had no initial objections to these inspections and understood that JBFCS was undergoing a new process of tightening-up its internal audit process, but the number of audits seemed excessive.
Although it was not mentioned specifically in my most recent complaint, the respondent has noted an incident with Ms. Dawson that occurred after the filing of this complaint, therefore, I will respond to their notation of this matter:
Ms. Dawson ordered that I complete an audit while serving as receptionist of YCL. I explained to Ms. Dawson that other support staff who work at the Youth Counseling League were either out sick that day or on a lunch break. There were no other support staff available to cover the front reception desk.
I simply asked Ms. Dawson that she return when there was coverage for the reception desk. Ms. Dawson ordered that I count the cash while working as YCL’s receptionist. There were adolescent clients in the waiting room and I felt it humiliating to have to count so much cash in front of low-income, mentally ill children. I explained to Ms. Dawson that it was impossible for me to do the audit because I had to answer the phone, collect co-payments from program members, issue receipts for payment of service fees, and I also had to alert therapists that their clients had arrived for their appointments. Also, petty cash receipts are maintained in my office, on my desk, along with documentation reflecting submitted vouchers for which reimbursement was pending. Ms. Dawson told me that she was in our clinic as a representative from the office of Susan Bear, the JBFCS employee against whom I filed my initial complaint of harassment. Ms. Dawson told me that I better listen to what she told me to do, or else Susan Bear would “come after me.”
Within their response, JBFCS noted that an e-mail sent to me by John D’Amico was not unprofessional or discriminatory, despite the fact that Mr. D’Amico plainly accused me of either stealing or mismanaging more than $2,000 in petty cash funds. Considering the frequency and number of petty cash audits, there never should have been questions relating to the amount of YCL’s petty cash fund. When I requested a petty cash increase for the Teens on the Town summer program, Mr. D’Amico wrote in an e-mail:
“If you only have $1,624.85 on hand that means you should have submitted to us vouchers for the difference of $2,375.15.”
Realizing that Mr. D’Amico needed a surprise desk audit of his own, I responded: “I can forward the documentation indicating this if you wish.”
Rather than accept my documentation and wait for a fax, Mr. D’Amico went on to reply, “Our records indicate that your fund stands at $4,000.” This indicates to me that Mr. D’Amico was clearly accusing me of grand larceny.
I was, and remain convinced that my employer, under the direction of Susan Bear, was and still are attempting to humiliate me and drive me out their doors and into the realms of insanity. The respondent is totally aware of the debilitating conditions of my mental illness and how easy it can be for one with my diagnosis to slip into the grips of uncontrolled worry. There was no reason, based on the success of previous audits, for the respondent not to wait until there was coverage for the front desk during a fourth surprise desk audit in a period of just a few months. I was ordered to participate in an investigation, led by the JBFCS human resources department, for being unavailable to be audited simply because I was the fill-in receptionist. Susan Bear requested an investigationThe investigation itself was like another surprise desk audit.
In response to my requests for reasonable accommodations relating to surprise petty cash audits, I was informed that I did not have to be the one who counted money during these surprise inspections and that any support staff personnel at the Youth Counseling League who had access to the safe and its cash could complete the audit if my mental health was being affected so adversely. My supervisor, Ms. Johnson, explained this to me. With these words in mind, I requested that Intake Specialist, Sherma Jacob conduct a fifth audit with Ms. Dawson. Despite Ms. Jacob’s counting of the cash and receipts, I was ordered once again participate in the counting and that if I didn’t, Ms. Dawson threatened to report me to Susan Bear. Ms. Jacob was unable to balance the petty cash account and because of the discrepancy, I was placed on administrative leave without pay. Ms. Bear told me “You can leave now. You are on administrative leave without pay until we can figure out the discrepancy in your petty cash account.”
I was placed in limbo without a means for meeting my own personal financial obligations for simply refusing to participate in another unnecessary, unannounced, discriminatory desk audit simply because I couldn’t because I was doing another job.
I informed my direct supervisor, Janet Johnson that I had received medical treatment at Saint Vincent’s Hospital for extreme anxiety following the incident with Ms. Dawson at the YCL reception desk. Ms. Johnson replied, “These audits are for your own benefit,” and went on to say, “You better stop filing these complaints. People actually read those things and you’re going to get fired.”
I requested a less alarming process be put into place for future audits. I asked that they call before they show up so that I could arrange for coverage of the reception desk.
Exhibit A, offered by the respondent as evidence of my understanding of JBFC’s audit process is indication of severe dementia affecting the core of this 100 year old institution. When I noted to Richard Clauson in an e-mail that other office managers “suffer just as much me”, my statement was by no means a green light for Susan Bear to continue her harassment and step up the pace and frequency of desk audits.
Prior to requesting “reasonable accommodations” for my disability of Schizophrenia, I was a celebrated employee of the Youth Counseling League and received glowing evaluations for the office manager duties I was performing. I was even promoted and invited to join senior management staff at Board of Directors meetings It was only after I requested reasonable accommodation and exemption from a promotion, that issues relating to my job performance and “insubordinate behavior” surfaced.
I humbly request that SDHR review all sides of this case with open, mentally healthy minds.