Stew Leonard’s boss accused of racist, sexist, anti-Semitic remarks


Clients push purchasing carts outdoors a Stew Leonard’s grocery store in Paramus, New Jersey, U.S., on Tuesday, Might 12, 2020. Stew Leonard Jr. mentioned that meat packing plant the corporate makes use of is working at about 70 % capability, and he expects it to rebound to full capability in a couple of month, CT Publish reported.

Angus Mordant | Bloomberg | Getty Pictures

A brand new federal lawsuit accuses the chief government of the New York metropolitan area-based Stew Leonard’s grocery retailer chain of constructing racist and sexist feedback about staff and clients.

Former longtime worker Robert Crosby Jr. additionally claims in his civil complaint that he was terminated from his job in violation of the People with Disabilities Act after his bout with Covid-19 left him disabled.

Crosby, a 58-year-old father of 4, accuses Stew Leonard’s and CEO Stew Leonard Jr. of making a hostile work atmosphere. The swimsuit cites “systemic racial, sexual, spiritual and ageist discriminatory practices” carried out by administration.

Crosby is looking for a minimum of $500,000 in damages within the swimsuit filed this week within the U.S. District Courtroom for the Southern District of New York.

The claims within the swimsuit distinction with the farm-folksy picture of the grocery chain, which as soon as was praised by President Ronald Reagan and enterprise guru Tom Peters. The primary Stew Leonard’s opened in 1969 as a small dairy store in Norwalk, Connecticut. The shop, which featured a small petting zoo, farm-themed meals shows and animatronic singing animals, skilled explosive progress in measurement, reputation and publicity within the following a long time.

The family-owned firm now has virtually $400 million in annual income at seven areas in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

Leonard Jr. declined to touch upon the allegations in Crosby’s swimsuit.

“Robert Crosby, Jr. labored for Stew Leonard’s virtually 20 years, however sadly we needed to half methods,” Leonard Jr. mentioned in a press release offered to CNBC on Tuesday. “We perceive he introduced a lawsuit and we’ll evaluate it with our attorneys, nonetheless we don’t touch upon pending litigation.”

Crosby, a former loss-prevention supervisor, “verbally opposed” the alleged slurs and practices throughout his employment, the swimsuit says.

The lawsuit additionally alleges that Leonard Jr. joked concerning the discovery a number of years in the past of human stays and tombstones from an deserted Orthodox Jewish cemetery situated on and close to the grounds of a Yonkers, New York retailer. The swimsuit says staff had been ordered to bury the tombstones in order that “nobody might discover them” by the shop’s president — Leonard Jr.’s cousin — who later instructed them to throw the human stays right into a dumpster.

Crosby’s swimsuit alleges that ever since he started working on the Yonkers location in 2001, he and his co-workers had been “subjected to a office atmosphere that was hostile and poisonous.”

The lawsuit alleges Leonard Jr. repeatedly referred to ladies as “b—–s,” known as two white Jewish workers his “resident Jews,” recurrently referred to Black workers as “thugs” and the N-word, and made feedback about Black workers’ physique elements. Crosby’s swimsuit additionally says he witnessed Leonard Jr. repeatedly say that Jews had been the “worst clients to take care of.”

The swimsuit additionally describes an organization Christmas get together within the early 2000s at which Leonard Jr. “insisted that higher administration put on sexually suggestive and inappropriate apparel together with faux breasts, lingerie, intercourse toys and current a sexually suggestive and offensive skit.”

Crosby claims he complained a number of instances about Leonard Jr.’s alleged practices to the corporate’s head of human assets. He says within the swimsuit that she instructed him that “Stew’s simply being Stew,” and that “he has no filter.”

Covid struggle

In accordance with Crosby’s swimsuit, when the coronavirus started spreading broadly in the US in March 2020, Crosby complained concerning the lack of private protecting gear on the retailer, the dearth of social distancing and a ban on staff sporting protecting masks on website. These complaints fell on deaf ears, the swimsuit says.

Crosby’s swimsuit says that he contracted Covid in April 2020, after 50 co-workers examined constructive the prior month. He says he developed signs that “had been excessive and life-threatening” and included “lack of odor and style, nausea, mind fog, Epstein Barr Syndrome, Continual Fatigue Syndrome” and reminiscence loss. This required hospitalization, the swimsuit provides.

Stew Leonard Jr.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The swimsuit says he developed “Lengthy Haul Covid,” and that he was pressured to return to work after having been reluctantly granted medical depart. (Long Covid sufferers expertise signs for months after they’re contaminated.) Throughout a subsequent six-day hospitalization in September 2020 for issues from Covid, Crosby was ordered by the vice chairman of the Yonkers retailer to “work from his hospital mattress.”

Crosby says he was fired later that month after Stew Leonard’s refused to grant him a brief depart from work so he might get well from Covid, in keeping with his lawsuit.

Crosby filed the swimsuit after he obtained a discover of possible trigger issued by the New York State Division of Human Rights in response to a cost of discrimination he filed in opposition to Stew Leonard’s in 2021. 

The discover mentioned the division decided that possible trigger exists to consider that Stew Leonard’s and Leonard Jr. engaged in illegal discriminatory practices. It additionally indicated that Crosby had alleged Leonard would “use the ‘N’ phrase freely a number of instances.” In March, the federal Equal Employment Alternative Fee issued Crosby a discover of a proper to sue Stew Leonard’s after he had filed an EEOC criticism in opposition to his former employer.

Graveyard controversy

Crosby additionally describes in his lawsuit the invention of tombstones from Might 2004 as much as 2009 on the leased land occupied by Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers.

Crosby alleges that an organization government directed him and his coworkers to bury the tombstones “the place nobody can discover them.” He additionally claims they had been instructed they might lose their jobs if anybody came upon about it.

In 2009, in keeping with the lawsuit, Crosby and different staff found human bones whereas investigating a fireplace. They had been instructed to “get espresso burlap luggage and discard the bones within the dumpster,” the swimsuit says.

“Defendant Leonard Jr. jokingly referred to the invention of human stays and tombstones, which had been decided to be the stays of an Orthodox Jewish Cemetery, as ‘The Yonkers Holocaust,'” the swimsuit alleges.

Crosby’s swimsuit alleges he suffered from post-traumatic stress dysfunction and different illnesses after his bosses threatened to fireplace him if he instructed others concerning the bones.

Crosby’s allegations might shed new mild on a narrative that broke in 2004, when the New York lawyer basic’s workplace alleged {that a} New Jersey developer could have didn’t adjust to a 1989 courtroom order to rearrange for the relocation of the entire stays from the cemetery once they developed the Yonkers website that got here to deal with Stew Leonard’s and two different shops, Costco and Residence Depot. The stays had been purported to have been reinterred in Israel, in keeping with media reviews on the time.

Two tombstones had been discovered discarded close to Stew Leonard’s in 2004 on the heels of these allegations, in keeping with printed reviews.

Then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer claimed that the remains of up to 135 children could have been left behind in the course of the disinterment venture. The developer, Morris Industrial Builders, in 2005 agreed to settle the case with Spitzer by placing up a monument close to the positioning of the previous cemetery and to offer any of the $100,000 settlement left after the monument was erected to a non-profit group.

On the time, a lawyer for Morris Industrial mentioned “there was no admission of ‘inappropriate conduct or improper conduct’ and maintained that each one the our bodies within the cemetery had been reburied,” in keeping with a 2005 Related Press article on the case.

The Stew Leonard’s chain’s picture beforehand took successful in 1993, when Stew Leonard Sr. pleaded responsible to federal costs in a $17.1 million tax fraud scheme that concerned the siphoning off of retailer money receipts into his non-public coffers. The elder Leonard was sentenced to greater than 4 years in jail within the case, which additionally noticed responsible pleas by his spouse’s two brothers, each of whom had been prime executives on the retailer on the time.

Court records from the case filed by federal prosecutors present that Leonard Jr. obtained immunity as a part of the deal by his dad and uncles to plead responsible, and that Leonard Jr. allegedly participated in a cash-skimming conspiracy that led to the tax costs.

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