NEW ORLEANS -- Former French Market Director Frank Pizzolota has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, claiming he was pushed out because the board wanted to hire an African-American.
Pizzolato, who served two years in the job before he submitted his resignation last December, claims the board forced him out even though he “excelled in his position” by rooting out longstanding fraud and mismanagement.
“FMC (French Market Corporation) constructively discharged plaintiff on or about December 31, 2013 because of his race (Caucasian) and also in retaliation for his complaints of workplace practices in violation of state law,” Pizzolato states in his suit, filed this week in federal court in New Orleans.
Before filing the suit, Pizzolato stated he filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Louisiana Commission on Human Rights. He stated that the EEOC paved the way for his case by issuing him a “right to sue letter.”
In his suit, Pizzolato also seeks whistleblower status for his role in trying to expose corruption at the city agency. French Market attorney Henry Julien said Pizzolato’s claims are groundless.
“It’s a frivolous lawsuit,” Julien said. “Mr. Pizzolato was the executive director and he is trying to claim he was the whistleblower on actions the board wanted him to take. So was he blowing the whistle on himself?”
Julien said the discrimination claim doesn’t make sense because Pizzolato’s successor is a white male.
“The discrimination claim is totally bogus,” Julien said. “He didn’t have any problem replacing the director before him, who was an African-American male. And now, the current director is a Caucasian male.”
But Pizzolato points out that the board initially extended a job offer to an African-American female candidate from Virginia, but she ultimately declined the job when the city couldn’t meet her salary demands. The position ended up going to the board’s second choice, Jon Smith.
Julien shrugged off the allegation.
“The law allows just about anybody to file a lawsuit. Proving it in court is a different matter,” he said.
Pizzolato is seeking unspecified damages for loss of income, humiliation, and pain and suffering. As an alternate to lost income, he is seeking reinstatement.