Ex-janitor says company discriminated against him

A FORMER employee of ABM Janitorial Services claims in a lawsuit that he was discriminated against by the company because of his faith, race and disability.

Vincent Danao, 49, of Logan, became a Hebrew Israelite in 2007. He said yesterday that after he did so, "I just began getting harassed and everything."

His lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia last month, contends that Danao faced hostility, got dumped with more work, was falsely criticized for his performance and was placed under increased scrutiny after he made his new religion known.

Hebrew Israelites believe that some African-Americans are descendants of an ancient Israelite tribe.

Danao also contends that ABM did not immediately allow him to switch an early Saturday shift so he could observe the Sabbath.

Danao worked as a janitor for ABM starting in 1999, cleaning offices in Center City. He was fired in 2009 "based on falsely alleged poor performance," his suit says, but then got his job back through arbitration.

Around 2012, the suit contends, Danao's new supervisor and manager ramped up the discrimination against him. Because of the alleged mistreatment, Danao contends he developed anxiety and symptoms of insomnia, for which he started taking medication.

Then, in February 2013, Danao fell asleep for the first time at work at the Shops at Liberty Place, on Chestnut Street near 16th. He said he fell asleep because of his insomnia medication.

After that incident, ABM initially suspended him for three days, then fired him.

The suit contends that ABM fired Danao based on his disability (his insomnia), religion, because he is black, and/or because of his prior complaints against the company.

Chas Strong, an ABM spokesman in Atlanta, said in a statement yesterday: "Mr. Danao's claims are baseless and ABM Janitorial Services will vigorously defend itself. ABM Janitorial Services takes issues of diversity and inclusion very seriously and has in place company-wide policies and procedures to provide employees a workplace of respect, fairness and dignity."

In addition to ABM, the suit lists as a defendant the local 32BJ SEIU union, which represents cleaners and other workers. Danao alleges that the union does more to protect the jobs of white members than black members.

Danao initially had filed a lawsuit against ABM and the union last December, saying that ABM's written policy calls for a suspension, not job termination, for an alleged first incident of sleeping on the job. A federal judge earlier this year dismissed the suit because it was filed beyond the statute of limitations for the claims in the suit.

Daisy Cruz, 32BJ Mid-Atlantic district director, said yesterday in an emailed statement: "A federal judge has already dismissed Vincent Danao's initial claim. We trust that the legal process will bring the facts to light once again. We take pride in going to great lengths to defend our members who are wrongfully accused of misconduct. However, there are limits to what we can defend."

Danao's attorney, Reginald Allen, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

 


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