MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Did a sitting judge – who is supposed to uphold the law – violate it when he fired his chief clerk while she was on maternity leave?
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported exclusively Tuesday, that is the claim of a Long Island mother who shared her details of a federal complaint.
“I was shocked — shocked,” said Tricia Moriates.
The shock arrived in a curt text message from Moriates’ boss, Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Robert Bruno.
“He decided to move in another direction and retain someone else as his principal law clerk,” Moriates said.
Even more stunning, Moriates said, was being fired by a sitting judge while she was out on approved and unpaid maternity leave.
“It’s not only offensive to me,” she said, “but in this day and age, it’s offensive to all women.”
Moriates, attorney who for seven years has been clerking for Bruno, has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint accusing the judge of making “sexist, archaic comments.” The complaint alleges that the judge on numerous occasions expressed “a woman’s place is in the home… after childbirth.”
“He has expressed that women with babies should stay home and take care of those babies,” Moriates said, “and I love my son and I love, you know, taking care of my family, but I love my career as well, and it’s not his choice to make.”
According to his biography, Judge Bruno is a conservative, cross-endorsed by Republicans, with more than three decades of legal experience. Moriates said a judge should know better.
“The whole purpose of maternity leave is to have, you know, the safety net of, you know, coming back to your job,” Moriates said. “That’s what our foremothers fought for.”
It is illegal for an employer to discriminate because of pregnancy or childbirth. But a woman can be fired while on maternity leave if there is a legitimate unrelated reason.
Judge Bruno would not explain to CBS2 his reason.
A court spokesman would only say, “As we anticipate a complaint to be filed, it would be inappropriate at this time to further comment on the allegations.”
Moriates’ attorney said there were never any complaints about her job performance.
“You have the prerogative to terminate people, but you can’t do it for a reason that’s illegal; that’s protected by law,” said attorney W. Edwin Litton.
The matter could end up right back where it all started in a court of law. The EEOC will investigate the claim and could also launch a civil suit against the judge’s employer – New York State.
Judge Bruno was set to be honored Tuesday night by the Cathoilc Lawyers Guild of Nassau County.