Wayne, NJ, School Worker Claims Discrimination For Not Being Italian
WAYNE — A Passaic County groundskeeper who has worked for his local school district for nearly 30 years claims he was passed over for promotions and faced retaliation in part because he was not Italian, according to a lawsuit.
Brian Taylor, 51, of Wayne, tried several avenues to work his way up, the suit said, but he was passed over and eventually demoted because his ancestry didn't make him a paisan.
The lawsuit states that his pension should be close to 50% higher, and his family will lose out on "several hundreds of thousands of dollars." State records show Taylor's salary is $57,676.
John Geppert, an attorney for the Wayne school board, said in a statement to NorthJersey.com that the board disputes Taylor's claims.
“The district’s administrators and the board of education have always acted appropriately and in full compliance with all laws in this matter," Geppert said.
Accusations of discrimination against non-Italians
According to the lawsuit, Taylor applied for eight higher-paying positions between 2013 and 2021 including grounds supervisor and assistant director of facilities management.
On his own time, Taylor completed facilities management courses at Rutgers University to obtain his educational facilities manager certification. He also earned his commercial driver's license, black seal license for boilers, and DEP pesticide applicator certification.
The lawsuit says that the less-qualified Italian friends and family of former Director of Facilities John Maso were hired. Maso, who is of Italian descent, then hired the relatives of those loyal to him, including wives, children and a brother-in-law to round out his "fiefdom of favoritism, discrimination, retaliation, and abuse."
According to the suit, Taylor was not the only one who suffered from the hostile work environment. Facilities Manager Gus Najem was forced to retire in 2017, just months after filing his complaints of discrimination and retaliation against Maso, the suit states.
"The Board was either oblivious to this nepotism or simply didn't care," the lawsuit says.
'Long chain of retaliation'
In 2018, Taylor overheard one of Maso's hires, Andrew Rocco, telling a supervisor that Taylor "would be pushing a broom in no time," according to the suit.
The following school year, Taylor was transferred to a custodial job where he would miss out on overtime income, he says.
Maso then replaced Taylor with a man named Giuseppi "Joe" Tandurella who was Rocco's brother-in-law, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that Taylor then heard from other employees that Rocco had threatened their jobs as well, telling them that he would get rid of them "like I got rid of Brian Taylor."
"Taylor is just the most recent link in the long chain of retaliation that continues to plague the WTPSD," the lawsuit says. "Enough is enough."
In January 2020, Taylor won the election for president of his labor union. He successfully fought to get his old groundskeeper job back and was able to reverse the firing of another employee similarly targeted by Rocco, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit, filed on Sept. 9 in Passaic County Superior Court, seeks lost back and future wages, damages and attorney's fees.