A former West New York official is accused of creating “a culture of sexism,” similar to that in the television series “Mad Men,” only giving pay raises and promotions to “younger, sexy” females in a lawsuit filed last month.
In the lawsuit filed in Hudson County Superior Court on July 8, Lazara Martinez – through her North Bergen Attorney Louie Zayas – she alleges that then-Business Administrator Joe DeMarco gave pay raises to two female co-workers “whom he flirted with and behaved inappropriately,” adding that he “created a culture of sexism” similar to the show “Mad Men.”
The show, set in the 1950’s, depicts men treating woman as sex objects.
In the suit, Martinez – now 68, who works as an accountant for the town – says that “younger, sexy” females who flirted with DeMarco received pay raises and promotions – while Martinez was denied such opportunities.
She further alleges that Town CFO Margaret Cherone, her direct supervisor, once told DeMarco that he had created a “toxic environment” by essentially allowing one of Martinez’s co-workers to do whatever she wanted in the office.
The woman, Madeline Villalta, also allegedly allowed DeMarco to touch her “in a sexual and inappropriate manner,” which created “a hostile work environment” for others – such as Martinez.
Mayor Felix Roque is also named in the suit, since it was his “unwritten policy of retaliating against non-political supporters” – which DeMarco implemented by refusing to sign off on a $5,000 raise for Martinez in July 2013.
Martinez says she previously declined multiple solicitations from town hall employees to purchase tickets for Roque’s political fundraisers.
Additionally, Martinez claims her civil rights, particularly freedom of speech and political affiliation, were violated, and that she was also a victim of age and gender discrimination.
DeMarco was Roque’s campaign manager during the May 2011 election where Roque defeated Sal Vega. He left his position in West New York in July 2014 after Jimmy Davis defeated Mark Smith for the Bayonne mayor’s seat.
DeMarco, who also served as Davis’ campaign manager, is currently the business administrator in Bayonne.
West New York spokesman Pablo Fonseca said the town doesn’t comment on pending litigation, which is “a personnel matter.”
Zayas and DeMarco could not be reached by phone and their voicemails were full, while a Bayonne spokesman and Davis did not return calls seeking comment.
A copy of the lawsuit can be read here.