Federal racial discrimination lawsuit filed against deputy Orange County executive
A longtime assistant to the Orange County executive filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against one of his former bosses.
The lawsuit was filed Jan. 19 on behalf of the plaintiff, Justin Rodriguez, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Deputy County Executive Harry Porr.
It accuses the official of violating Rodriguez’s constitutional rights and creating a hostile work environment by making repeated, inappropriate remarks about the plaintiff’s Jewish and Latino heritage and lists more than a dozen instances.
Among the allegations, the court document claims Porr, “mockingly referred to Jewish people as Rodriguez’s cousins, including Hasidic Jews from Kiryas Joel who visited the office,” and made “mocking” comments to the plaintiff about his Hispanic ethnicity, such as “joking” that he “must be related to random people, simply because they are also Hispanic.”
Rodriguez has worked as an assistant to County Executive Steve Neuhaus since 2015. His mother is Jewish and his father is of Puerto Rican descent, according to the lawsuit.
Rodriguez filed a workplace complaint in 2022 that resulted in a founded investigation and Porr was removed as his direct supervisor, according to the lawsuit. Rodriguez is allegedly still required to work closely with Porr and the court document claims he’s treated with “disdain.”
Orange County Attorney Rick Golden says the county will provide Porr with an attorney at no cost, and will pay for any financial judgement that may be awarded to Rodriguez due to the litigation, as required by state law. He otherwise had no comment on the litigation.
News 12 reached out to Porr and Rodriguez’s attorney, Christopher Watkins, but didn’t hear back.
The lawsuit claims Rodriguez felt humiliated because of the alleged harassment and continues to suffer emotional distress as a result. It seeks financial damages and the reimbursement of attorney’s fees and court costs.