Ex-employee of Mazzoni Center files antibias complaint

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Naasik A. Fuller, a former employee of Mazzoni Center, recently filed an antibias complaint against the health-care and wellness agency with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Fuller, 31, worked at the center’s Bainbridge Street office for about five months as a community health worker/care coordinator. Fuller claims they were dismissed without due process, after supervisors unfairly complained about their alleged inadequate work performance, excessive absenteeism and disrespectful attitude.

Fuller is nonbinary and earned about $500 weekly at Mazzoni until June 2023, when they were fired. Fuller didn’t get along with their immediate supervisor at Mazzoni. 

“She [supervisor] had a contentious relationship with gender nonconformity,” Fuller told PGN. “She just seemed miserable. Me trying to do my job was a bother to her.”

On Oct. 3, 2023, Fuller filed an antibias complaint with the EEOC, alleging discrimination on the basis of their race (Black) and disability (neurodivergent). Fuller also contends Mazzoni retaliated against them for complaining about a supervisor’s alleged unprofessionalism and absenteeism.

In their complaint, Fuller states: “On June 12, 2023, Mazzoni Center fired me over unsubstantiated claims.” The complaint goes on to assert that a supervisor at Mazzoni failed to provide “direct supervision, job training and guidance.”

The supervisor was frequently absent and unavailable for guidance due to frivolous reasons, such as expecting car parts to be delivered at her home on a certain day, according to Fuller.

Moreover, the supervisor allegedly failed to provide Fuller with information essential to performing their job, such as neglecting to facilitate access to a  website that was necessary to provide services to clients.

Fuller told PGN they wanted to succeed at their job but felt impediments were placed in their way by Mazzoni’s management. After Fuller urged a supervisor to use more sensitive language regarding substance abuse, the supervisor exhibited perceptible hostility toward them, Fuller said.

“What happened to me shouldn’t happen to anyone else,” Fuller asserted. “I showed up and wanted to work as optimally as possible at that position and it felt that they didn’t care about that.”

As someone who’s neurodivergent and potentially autistic, Fuller said they felt antagonism at Mazzoni about their health status rather than support. “They [management] weren’t culturally-competent,” Fuller continued. “They basically told me I was too much to handle.”

Additionally, Fuller stated that Mazzoni misleads the public about accepting diversity, including staffers with disabilities. “They claim, ‘We love everybody,’ but that’s not true,” Fuller contended.

Fuller said they were passionate about providing services to patients. However, Mazzoni’s management treated Fuller in an “adversarial” manner, Fuller alleged.

“I wasn’t trained as promised,” Fuller continued. “I wanted to provide individualized care to patients. But I wasn’t supported in doing so [by a supervisor]. It felt as if I was being set up for failure.”

Fuller added: “I don’t have an issue with authority. But [my supervisor] was an authoritarian and I just couldn’t take it.”

Despite the challenges, Fuller said there were positive aspects of their job, such as receiving free meals on occasion and making fulfilling contacts with queer clients and co-workers. 

“I’m not out to close down Mazzoni,” Fuller emphasized. “I’m still a patient at Mazzoni and receive health care services there. I appreciate that their services are specifically oriented to the LGBTQ+ community.”

A “counseling and warning” document issued by Mazzoni in April 2023 accused Fuller of insubordination and poor job performance. The document noted that Fuller was hired in January 2023 and received extensive job training. The document also alleged that Fuller engaged in “aggressive, abusive and rude behavior towards co-workers and his supervisor — and shortcomings related to patient care.”

According to Fuller’s June 12, 2023, termination letter, they were fired for “a number of factors, including disrespectful behavior towards other staff members and performance concerns in your role as a Community Health Worker. These issues have continued despite prior disciplinary action and additional counseling and support provided to you by Mazzoni Center.”

The letter added: “On June 6, Mazzoni Center received allegations from multiple front line staff members that you potentially engaged in disrespectful and/or inappropriate conduct. An internal investigation into these allegations revealed that you have engaged in a pattern of disrespectful and/or inappropriate communications with multiple front line staff members in violations of Mazzoni Center Policy. Accordingly, your employment with Mazzoni Center is hereby terminated effective today.”

Fuller emphatically denied the allegations contained in the warning document and termination letter.

For their part, Fuller issued this statement: “Save for a few individuals, I wasn’t shown respect or that I was valued there. And I know [a recent trans-supportive mayoral order] won’t address systemic issues at Mazzoni Center they’re aware of but don’t do anything about.

“They let [a supervisor] wreck my livelihood and facilitated her abuse of power. They sanctioned and participated in a farce by accepting false claims made about me as fact, and without asking me what happened.

“I told them I couldn’t work with [the supervisor] because she lied to me and about me, on top of seeking opportunities to punish me. And they made me do it anyway as they claimed there was no other choice. She wasn’t interested in corrective action in good faith and had been sabotaging my professional growth by neglecting to do her job.

“They denied me fair treatment that was offered to others and it was very obvious they had favorites. Their actions on the matters I alerted them to were performative, at best. They care more about saving face than they do people. If it weren’t the case, they wouldn’t have let that happen to me.

“This did damage to my health. And the executive director was aware of it all. I expressed these concerns to the executive director, my therapist and my primary-care provider. [I told many individuals at Mazzoni] I wasn’t being treated fairly and that I was trying to do my best despite the lack of training and supervision I was offered.

“[Management] perceived me as a hazard to the organization and this lives on in their records of my time at Mazzoni Center. They held me accountable for my ‘actions’ by skipping warnings, terminating my employment, and practically leaving me out to die.

“I share responsibility for what took place because I didn’t do it alone. How do I hold Mazzoni Center accountable for their share of what happened?”

Fuller isn’t seeking monetary damages, they said. “I can’t put a dollar amount on what I experienced and suffered,” they said. “But I do want an acknowledgement from Mazzoni of their wrongdoing. At the end of the day, they gaslit me. I don’t want someone else to go through a similar situation in the future.”

Fuller is seeking unemployment compensation, but a hearing on their request hasn’t been held, as of presstime.

Geoffrey D. Bruen, an attorney for Mazzoni, issued this statement: “Mazzoni Center is committed to principles of fairness, justice, and non-discrimination in the workplace. The organization is also committed to protecting employees from retaliation and fully supports staff and clients raising good faith concerns so that it can address them with care and diligence.

“While Mazzoni Center generally cannot comment in detail on pending litigation, Naasik Fuller’s separation from employment was supported by just cause and was wholly legitimate. Prior to Mx. Fuller’s separation, Mazzoni Center worked to ensure their success as an employee with the organization. Unfortunately, this proved unsuccessful. Although Mazzoni Center has not been formally served with a Charge of Discrimination by the EEOC on behalf of Mx. Fuller, based on a review of the information forwarded by the PGN, Mazzoni Center believes Mx. Fuller’s allegations against it are wholly baseless and the organization intends to vigorously defend against them. Although the organization anticipates a successful outcome in any legal action, Mazzoni Center hopes that the parties are able to amicably put to rest any unresolved issues Mx. Fuller believes still exist.”