Phila. mental health agency faces retaliatory discharge claim by former behavioral specialist

By Jon Campisi | Sep 24, 2012

A former behavioral specialist for the Philadelphia-based Community Council For Mental Health and Mental Retardation has filed a federal lawsuit against the agency over claims that he was fired from his job of five years strictly because he voiced complaints about discriminatory treatment.

Martin Nwoga, of Sicklerville, N.J., is suing his former employer, as well as the agency’s parent organization, Community Council Health Systems Inc., over allegations of wrongful termination and discrimination.

The lawsuit claims that Nwoga, who possesses a doctorate degree in education, was terminated from his position in July 2010 despite the fact that he had no disciplinary history with the agency.

The complaint alleges that the sole reason for Nwoga’s firing was that he complained about what he viewed as discriminatory treatment on the part of his superiors.

Nwoga’s job entailed him providing various levels of care and diagnostic services for children with mental health problems, the complaint states.

As such, the plaintiff would work closely with a case manager, who would assign and oversee Nwoga’s cases.

Toward the end of his employment with the agency, Nwoga began being supervised by a man identified as John Bailey, who “openly exhibited concerns to Plaintiff and management of Defendants about Plaintiff working with clients in light of his discernible and thick accent,” the lawsuit claims.

Nwoga is African American and possesses what the lawsuit states is a “very apparent accent.”

The lawsuit alleges that soon after Bailey entered the picture, the new supervisor would obstruct certain cases that the plaintiff was assigned by his case manager, something that Nwoga attributes to pure discrimination based on the plaintiff’s race.

“Plaintiff complained that he was being prohibited from working with certain clientele based upon his race and racial characteristics (his accent),” the lawsuit states.

When Nwoga’s case manager brought the plaintiff’s concerns to Bailey, the new supervisor “openly told [the case manager] he did not want Plaintiff working with various clientele because of his accent and race,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint goes on to state that Nwoga was eventually permitted, though other management, to be given clientele irrespective of his race and accent due to his continued complaints of racial discrimination.

Bailey, however, had become “incensed” about Nwoga’s complaints, and soon began what the suit calls a “campaign of searching for any problem with Plaintiff’s performance for any reason to terminate Plaintiff.”

When Nwoga was eventually fired from his job in July 2010, he was given only “vague information” that a client had complained about him, something Nwoga claims was untrue and a mere pretext for his unlawful firing.

Nwoga seeks to have the defendants prohibited from continuing their policy of discriminating against employees.

He also demands compensation for lost and future earnings, unspecified punitive damages, damages for emotional distress, litigation costs and attorney’s fees.

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 21 at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia by Bensalem, Pa. attorney Ari R. Karpf, of the firm Karpf, Karpf & Cerutti.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-05393-RK.

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