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Ex-aide sues Councilmember

An ex-aide of Councilmember Julissa Ferreras recently filed a federal lawsuit claiming he is owed money and was verbally abused while working at Ferreras’ office because of his disability.

Steven Castro, 24, who has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination, said he worked for Ferreras full-time from September 2009 until this past March, but never got a regular paycheck from his $14-an-hour clerical job.

Castro, who lives in Maspeth, claimed Ferreras and her deputy chief of staff, Yoselin Genao, ridiculed him and treated him like a messenger, janitor and gopher. The court papers said they even made him carry heavy boxes, even though his disability made it difficult.

“He was being treated different than others because of his physical disability and that he was humiliated and embarrassed because he believed he was being treated like a ‘slave,’” said the court papers filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn on Monday, October 25.

The lawsuit against Ferreras, Genao, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council detailed the alleged insults that Castro said he had to bear while working at Ferreras’ East Elmhurst office.

“He thought he did a great job, even though it was difficult,” said Linda Cronin, attorney for Steven Castro, who is with the law firm of Cronin & Byczek in Lake Success, L.I.

But after four months without pay, his lawyer said Castro and his uncle confronted Ferreras. That’s when she offered to pay him a stipend for $3,425, but he claimed he was owed more than $15,000.

“They (his family) are saddened and they feel he was taken advantage of,” Cronin said.

Castro stopped working for Ferreras and filed a discrimination claim in March with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, hoping they could help him get the rest of the money. When that didn’t work, they turned to the Brooklyn Federal Court.

Ferreras, who first found out about the allegations from the media, said she did not discriminate against Castro.

“I was very outraged,” Ferreras said. “It is unfortunate that someone would make such preposterous allegations.”

Genao also defended herself. She said at the time Castro worked in the office, she never directly supervised him, so she doesn’t understand why she was named in the lawsuit. She maintained that kind of negative behavior is not practiced or accepted in Ferreras’ office.

“I don’t understand where this is coming from,” said Genao, who said she hadn’t been served by the court yet. “I would never do something like this. Never, never, never.”

Now, it will be up to the federal court to decide. Castro hopes to get $500,000 plus interest in damages. But Ferreras remained optimistic.

“I feel very confident this case will be thrown out of court, and if it is not we are confident we will win,” Ferreras said.

 

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