Former county employee fights dismissal

LIHUE — A former county public works employee claims his dismissal was due to race, age and disability.

Amadeo Dullaga, 65, was hired as a temporary assignment markings crew lead supervisor for the county on May 1, 1996.

He was seeking a full-time permanent supervisor position when his job was terminated on Sept. 9, 2013.

Dullaga’s suit, filed through his attorney, Charles Brower, on Feb. 12 in 5th Circuit Court, alleges the dismissal came without an offer of reasonable accommodation to continue approved medical leave. He is suing the county for discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and violation of whistleblower protection.

Dullaga’s complaint alleges the dismissal was due to his age, 63 at the time, a disability, his Filipino ethnicity, and Philippines national origin.

The disability was due to a work injury suffered while employed with the county. He began medical leave on Oct. 25, 2012, and filed a worker’s compensation claim that was approved by his employer.

According to the complaint, Dullaga met with his supervisor, Public Works Department District Manager Marvin Ponce, to report incidents of violence in the workplace involving one of his subordinate employees on Oct. 18, 2012.

Ponce, according to the suit, told Dullaga he was old enough and encouraged him to retire. Dullaga, among the oldest employees in the department at the time, said he had no intention of retiring and started medical leave on Oct. 25, 2012.

A lower position with a lower rate of pay was offered to Dullaga while on medical leave on May 31, 2013. He declined the offer and alleges that management encouraged him to retire twice more on May 20, 2013, and Sept. 8, 2013.

Dullaga received a letter from County Engineer Larry Dill dated Aug. 13, 2013. According to the suit, it threatened dismissal for not accepting the demotion to a park caretaker position.

Continuing to pursue a full-time lead supervisor position, Dullaga says it was filled by a younger individual with less experience and seniority, who was also a Hawaii born, non-Filipino, and of non-Philippines origin.

The suit adds that the dismissal which followed came without an offer of reasonable accommodation to continue approved medical leave. A charge of discrimination was filed with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, and after administrative remedies ran their course Dullaga received a right to sue notice on Nov. 13.

The suit is seeking reinstatement to a full-time permanent lead supervisor position, for general, punitive and other damages to be proven at trial, back pay, and attorneys fees.

County Communications Director Beth Tokioka declined to comment.

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