Landscaper accuses San Mateo of age discrimination

A 49-year-old landscaper has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the city of San Mateo, claiming he was passed over for promotion in favor of a younger, less qualified man and retaliated against by superiors for his friendship with an unpopular employee.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 3 in San Mateo Superior Court, Sam Schiavone accuses city officials of employment discrimination, retaliation, breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, failure to prevent discrimination, fraud and harassment. Also named in the lawsuit are the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and its director, Sheila Canzian; City Manager Arne Croce; and Schiavone’s direct superior, Tony Zumba.

In court documents, Schiavone, who has been employed by the city since 1990, claims he was denied a promotion to senior lead worker on Dec. 18, 2006, despite positive work performance evaluations, 29 years experience and serving as acting senior lead worker. Instead, he claims, the promotion went to a man in his 30s with seven years on the job, no experience leading a crew and without the licenses Schiavone had secured.

Schiavone, who interviewed for the job he was later denied, claims to have suffered from depression, anxiety and stress. He says he has sought assistance from the Employee Assistance Program. The EAP counselor reportedly suggested he look at colleges to see if he could get another career.

Schiavone accuses Canzian of creating a hostile work environment and claims she did not promote him because of his friendship withanother worker who was disliked and demoted.

Canzian declined to comment on the claims Wednesday, citing employee privacy.

San Mateo City Attorney Shawn Mason said city officials had not yet been served with the lawsuit, but acknowledged that Schiavone had first filed a complaint with the city.

“We investigated his complaints and we did not find they were sustained,” Mason said. He declined to discuss the details of the investigation, but said it was the first time an age discrimination lawsuit had been brought against the Parks and Recreation Department.

Several years ago, a senior code enforcement officer filed an age discrimination against San Mateo, and it was ultimately settled out of court without the city admitting fault, Mason said.

Schiavone could not be reached Wednesday and his attorney, Charles Katz, did not return calls for comment.

tbarak@examiner.com

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