A former staffer in the Nassau County Executive’s office was given a hard time — and ultimately fired — for asking to work from home during the pandemic because she has cancer, she alleges in new court papers.

Leslie Rothschild, who worked in the office as the assistant to the director, claims her request for the accommodation wasn’t granted at least partially in retaliation for rebuffing the sexual advances by one of her superiors, according to her Brooklyn federal lawsuit filed earlier this month.

Rothschild alleges she was sexually harassed by Deputy County Executive Michael Santeramo, “who solicited sexual interaction from Rothschild and threatened her with repercussions should she not comply or report his conduct,” the suit states.

“Many of the above issues she experienced relating to the failure to provide her reasonable accommodations are also a byproduct of Santeramo’s retaliatory animus,” the filing charges.

Rothschild is suing Nassau County, the former County Executive Laura Curran — who lost re-election in 2021 — Santeramo and others for unspecified damages.

In July 2020, Rothschild — who lives on Long Island — formally asked to work from home and was only allowed to if she got a doctor’s note and re-submitted a request for the accommodation every month, her filing claims.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran
Former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is among those being sued by Rothschild.
Dennis A. Clark

At this same time, “due to the pandemic, roughly sixty percent of county employees were working from home, and Rothschild had been and was able to perform the essential functions of her job remotely,” the suit charges.

This arduous monthly renewal process prompted her to hire a lawyer and file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In July 2021, and continuing throughout the rest of the year, Rothschild continued to ask that she be allowed to work from home “as her cancer had returned and her immune system was severely compromised,” the filing alleges — while noting she also had pain that made it difficult to walk.

Instead, Rothschild “was only offered the ability to work out of an office the size of a closet at the county” which was not cleaned and still forced her to walk through common areas where others were potentially exposing her to “fatal viruses,” the suit claims.

According to the filing, the county “refused” to grant her the accommodation with Santeramo telling Rothschild’s lawyer “I’m in a rough place to help you with the letters” – a reference to her EEOC complaint.

Rothschild and her lawyer were also “explicitly told” to “stop fighting their claims and ‘tone down’ their representation of Rothschild in the EEOC,” the suit states.

Rothschild was fired in January and her “reputation was tarnished” the suit claims.

Santeramo and Curran didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

The County Executive’s Office – which has a new administration under Bruce Blakeman – said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Source: NYPOST

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