By Kathryn G. Menu
One of the South Fork’s most prominent golf clubs is facing allegations in federal court that it discriminated against an employee who says he was forced to leave the club’s employment in December 2011 after 13 years.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court on May 6, 2013, Riverhead resident Javed Khan — a former caddy at The Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton — alleges he was discriminated against and eventually forced into a position where he left the club because of his race and religion.
A Muslim-American of Guyanese and South Asian decent, Khan worked at the Scuttlehole Road golf club from 1998 to 2011. According to the suit, during his employment, all of his supervisors and managers were Caucasian men.
The suit alleges at “all times during his employment,” his supervisor called him names such as “terrorist” and told him he did not look like his co-workers or that he did not fit in or belong to the club. It further alleges that on multiple occasions in 2007, one of his supervisors informed Khan he would make his life “hell” and miserable” if Khan accepted a assistant caddy manager position — a position Khan did indeed take.
It was after accepting that position, Khan says he was exposed to a hostile environment and harassment and was physically threatened. According to the suit, in August of 2008 the animosity towards Khan “turned hostile and violent.” The suit states that as they were preparing for a tournament, Khan asked his supervisor about the negative attitude towards him. The suit alleges he was then lunged at by his supervisor who screamed profanities at him and threatened not only his employment, but to harm him physically.
In the suit, Khan said he complained about his treatment to management, but that it was never resolved and instead his pay was reduced from $22 to $20.
In 2009, the suit alleges that Khan was used as a “scapegoat” in an incident involving the termination of another club employee after Khan witnessed the theft of Bernie Madoff’s golf clubs. After that incident, the suit states supervisors and managers spread rumors about his character, calling him a liar and a thief, in an effort to get him to resign from his position.
In 2011 while Khan was caddying for President Bill Clinton, the suit alleges his supervisor told him he should be worried that his fingerprints were on President Clinton’s clubs and that the government would find out he was a terrorist and a member of Al-Qaeda.
After the incident, the suit alleges Khan’s supervisor told him if he didn’t quit working at the golf club he would be fired and that he would make sure Khan was bankrupt in 2012 if he came back to work at the club.
On October 30, 2011, the suit states that Khan was no longer able to work in fear of further harassment, humiliation, embarrassment and even bodily injury. He tendered his resignation in December of 2011.
After his resignation, the suit alleges he continued to be discriminated against and harassed based on his race, religion and national origin, with rumors spread that he was mentally sick.
All this, the suit states, is in violation of Khan’s civil rights and has cost him income and benefits. The situation continues to cause him emotional distress, according to the suit, and as a result Khan has had to seek treatment for psychological issues.
Khan filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in June 2012. In February 2013, the EEOC issued him a right-to-sue letter in federal court.
“We don’t comment on pending litigation, but I can tell you we anticipate this matter will be amicably resolved shortly, said the club’s attorney Michael Weber, with the Manhattan firm Littler Mendelson.