Worker brings swimsuit in opposition to Heritage Hills

An office manager with cancer has sued Heritage Hills, claiming the Somers condominium downgraded her because of her illness.

Brewster resident Mary Lou Martelli also said that last year’s move deprived her of important benefits, including employee-provided health insurance. The lawsuit, which was filed in the US District Court in White Plains on Tuesday, March 16, cites the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and the New York State Human Rights Law.

The complaint named the Heritage Hills Society and its director, Dom Rubino, as well as Heritage Management Services and Property Manager John Milligan.
The non-profit manages Heritage Hills recreational areas, including the activity center, pools, and tennis courts.

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Rubino, who had commented last week, issued the following statement: “The Heritage Hills Society is an equal opportunity employer and the Society strongly denies the validity of these claims, which are unfounded and unfounded. In addition, we look forward to the opportunity to produce a complete and factually accurate account of all underlying events. “

Due to the pending litigation, Rubino said on Thursday, March 25th, he was unable to comment.

Jennifer B. Courtain of Jackson Lewis’ New York law firm, which represents Heritage Hills, called the allegations “unfounded” on Monday, March 29, and said “the trial is just beginning.”

All of the Heritage Hills defendants “vehemently deny the allegations and claim they have fully complied with their legal obligations,” she said, adding that they look forward to participating in a fair trial in which all the facts are known and in to which you will be able to prove that they did nothing wrong or illegal. ”

Milligan could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.

Martelli’s duties included supporting the board of directors and residents of the society, answering questions from visitors, and handling the mail and accounting. She has been with Heritage Hills for 16 years. She started working remotely on March 20, 2020 when the center was temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. She should return to the office in the last week of June 2020.

In July Martelli was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in plasma cells. She took unpaid leave during treatment until October 2020 and was hoping to return to work in November, the lawsuit says. In the meantime, however, Martelli had to be hospitalized twice with pneumonia and operated on a cancer-weakened leg.

According to the lawsuit, Rubino sent Martelli a letter on October 9 stating that Heritage Hills could not grant her an “extended, indefinite vacation” because of the “nature and importance of her position.” He asked her to confirm her expected return to work and receive a doctor’s letter by October 19, the lawsuit said. But Martelli claims she never saw the letter because she was in the hospital at the time. On October 20, Rubino sent another message stating that working from home was not an option because the activity center had opened to residents and the company’s board of directors was meeting again in person, the lawsuit said.

Martelli, who is represented by Howard Schragin of the Sapir Schragin law firm in White Plains, said Rubino had also told her that her health insurance would expire by the end of the month and that she would need to purchase COBRA insurance. On October 21, Martelli delivered a doctor’s letter saying she could return to work on site in January or work remotely from December.

The lawsuit alleges Milligan told Martelli in November that “circumstances unrelated to the current coronavirus crisis” had downgraded her position.

She attributed these circumstances, according to the complaint, to “prejudices against her because of her disability and the perceived cost of health insurance”.

Martelli claims she was previously advised that the changes were “due to COVID-19 which enabled her to receive unemployment insurance benefits”.

The complaint also states that she was shown a job description “in her new role which was almost exactly the same as her previous role, with the exception of a new title, lower pay and part-time status”. The hours have been reduced to 20 per week. To get health insurance, she would have to work at least 30 hours a week, Martelli said.

Because she needed the money and a way to achieve “some normalcy” in her daily routine, Martelli decided to take on the new part-time position. Her leave of absence was extended to February.

However, Heritage Hills told Martelli that she could not work remotely as she would have to be physically at the activity center to deal with residents in person, her lawsuit said.

Martelli, who returned to the office on March 3, claims she only saw two residents in the first six days, and both “came specially to welcome them back”.

Due to her immunocompromised condition, Martelli asked for safety-relevant accommodation such as PPE; installing a baby gate for her office door; Signs to ensure social distancing and the wearing of masks and to require office visits may only be made by appointment.

The PPE and signs were “already in place”, but their requests for a baby gate and visits only by appointment were not granted, the complaint said.

However, Heritage Hills did offer to install a doorbell to announce visitors, a plastic sign around Martelli’s desk, and floor markings indicating “appropriate social distancing”.

The lawsuit alleges that after returning to work, Martelli encountered a “toxic work environment” where her working hours were changed from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the complaint said. Martelli also claims that once she was unable to get into her own office “because it was locked and she had no access”.

She also alleges age discrimination and has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Since her illness is classified as a disability under New York State Human Rights Act, she plans to file a discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Said Schragin.

In addition to returning to full-time status and restoring her health insurance, Martelli seeks reimbursement and lost benefits, as well as compensation for pain and suffering, emotional stress and distress.

Shragin said last week that he found the whole situation “daunting”.

“Sixteen years is a long time,” he said of his client’s tenure, adding: “She has always been there for her and now that she needs it to be there for her, turn your back on her.”

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