Tax collector faces discrimination lawsuit
Greenberg accused of violating law by woman he fired
Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, criticized in August for social media posts labeled by some critics as Islamophobic, is now the target of a federal discrimination lawsuit filed by a Muslim woman he fired last year.
The lawsuit, filed by former accounting clerk/customer-service representative Minaz MukhiSkees, cites Greenberg's posts, including a cartoon of a woman in a chador with a bulge on her back saying, “Does this bomb make my butt look big?”
Often worn by Muslim women, a chador is a cloth that covers the head and upper body like a wrap.
The lawsuit, which also names Seminole County Clerk of Courts Grant Maloy as a defendant, accuses Greenberg of violating the Family Leave Act and federal employment laws regarding sex, race and religious discrimination. Maloy, who hired Mukhi-Skees in the fall of 2017 after she was terminated by Greenberg, is accused in the suit of firing her as retaliation for lodging a complaint against Greenberg with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
He said she was terminated during a probationary period for “poor performance.”
“Her allegations are kind of imaginary,” Maloy said in response to the lawsuit. “We’re super-diverse here.”
Through a spokesman, Greenberg, 33, declined comment. He was elected tax collector in 2016, defeating fellow Republican and incumbent Ray Valdes in a GOP primary before vanquishing a write-in opponent that November because Seminole Democrats did not field a candidate.
Mukhi-Skees, hired Nov. 3, 2014, had earned satisfactory performance evaluations under Valdes and won praise from colleagues and peers, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Orlando.
In a sworn complaint to EEOC, Mukhi-Skees said she an approved maternity leave from the April 12, 2007, to June 19, 2017, but returned early from leave because an administrator told her she was needed.
“Although I was offered a total raise of 7 % and possessed the only four-year degree within the Accounting Department, I was terminated three days after my return...” she wrote.
The lawsuit alleged she was given no valid reason. MukhiSkees is seeking more than $250,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, including back pay and attorney fees.
Mukhi-Skees noted she was one of five minority employees terminated or “constructively discharged” by Greenberg. Constructive discharge refers to an employee who resigns due to a hostile work environment. She described herself in EEOC documents as of Asian-Indian descent.
The EEOC filing also included an Aug. 18 Facebook post by Greenberg that read: “Very simple question...Name just ONE society in the developed world that has benefited in ANY WAY from the introduction of more Muslims. Just one. Asking for a friend.”
He later removed the post, and he issued a statement on Aug. 20 saying “he did not mean to offend anyone.”
But some area Democrats organized protests at his Lake Mary office, chanting “Greenberg’s gotta go!”
“I will not let anyone intimidate me, my people or any marginalized community,” Rasha Mubarak, president of the Young Democrats of Orange County and a Muslim activist, said at the rally.