On August 23, jurors in Brooklyn Federal Court ruled against Greek-American teacher Francesco Portelos from Staten Island in his lawsuit for violation of labor and human rights, and workplace bullying.
Portelos, former tech teacher at Dreyfus Intermediate School (I.S. 49) in Stapleton, sued former Principal Linda Hill and former Superintendent Erminia Claudio, for the retaliation he suffered after exposing Hill’s overtime abuse. Hill was “double-dipping” by billing for simultaneous after-school programs, and paid a fine of $801, as reported in the Staten Island Advance (SIA).
During the seven days of the trial, teachers, civil servants and members of trade unions, as well as expatriates were present in the courtroom to support Portelos.
The jurors took four hours to rule against him, but he is determined to appeal his case all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
“Both I and my lawyer Brian Glass are determined to reach out to the Court of Appeals and, if necessary, to the Supreme Court, not only to shine a light on the truth, but also to eliminate human rights violations and harassment in the workplace,” Portelos told the National Herald.
Asked about the support of his colleagues, he said, “It was and remains unprecedented and poignant.” Portelos noted that he “receives daily messages on his website and Facebook page from New York and across the United States, as well as Greece.”
Referring to the trial process he said, “The judge did not give us the time frame to present the entire audiovisual material proving all injustices against me and the waste that was going on at I.S. 49.”
Portelos said that his wife Angela attended every day of the trial and not only for moral support, but also because the persecution against him affected her and their children.
“Although the court ruled against me, I’m not discouraged. I feel vindicated because the human rights violations against me and my family entered the judicial route. Within the next thirty days we are filing the appeal,” said Portelos.
As reported in the National Herald on August 18, Portelos told the Court about the suffering he experienced in January 2012 and presented the findings of his research on how Linda Hill was taking advantage of the system, overbilling the school for nonexistent overtime.
Following complaints against the principal, Portelos was suspended and then posted online about his new life in the “Rubber Room” where teachers, suspended for whatever reason, spend their days. The revelation of daily life in the “Rubber Room” documented on Portelos’ blog only exacerbated the situation, and intensified investigations and prosecutions against him. He found himself facing 38 Department of Education termination charges. Arbitrators intervened and the charges went down to 11, plus a fine of $10,000, and Portelos was ordered back to work. His pursuit of justice continues. “I hope this doesn’t bring a chilling effect to potential whistleblowers. We just have to be smarter about the way we expose the wrongdoing,” Portelos said, as SIA reported. More information is available on Portelos’ website protectportelos.org