A former employee of a Westchester County golf club has reached a settlement with the club after filing a lawsuit and claiming he was wrongly fired for trying to protect himself from COVID-19.
Andrew Balint, who had been hired as assistant general manager by Leewood Golf Club in Eastchester in 2019, said in federal court papers he was fired for refusing to report to work when he was entitled to work remotely for health reasons.
U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth M. Karras approved the dismissal of the lawsuit in White Plains federal court on January 11 after being informed by the parties they had reached a settlement. The details of the settlement were not disclosed.
Balint said he had informed Leewood Golf Club when he was first hired that he suffered from type 1 diabetes and asthma. Both are considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the state’s Human Rights Law, according to the court documents.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the golf club was partially closed from mid-March to June of 2020. During that time, Balint, a Greenburgh resident, said in his court papers he worked remotely and was able to perform all his duties satisfactorily.
When the club planned to reopen to members on June 10, 2020, Balint assisted in implementing safety guidelines recommended by the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, he claimed in court papers that the club was lax in enforcing safety guidelines such as temperature checks, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing.
In early June 2020, Balint told the club his health conditions placed him at extreme risk if he contracted COVID-19, and he asked to be allowed to continue working remotely.
According to the court documents, the club’s general manager, Mauro Piccininni, told Balint he was under pressure from the club’s board to force him to report for work in person.
Before Balint could submit medical documentation to support his request, he was informed he was terminated as of June 14.
After retaining a lawyer and some negotiating with the club, Balint returned to work July 3 after being assured his duties could be performed with social distancing, and that all staff and members were required to adhere to state and CDC guidance.
But after returning to work, Balint expressed concern about a July 11 member-guest event at which more than 100 people would be present, when the rule for non-essential gatherings in the state at that time was a maximum of 50.
During the event, Balint said he saw attendees disregarding mask and social distancing requirements. After working the event for 14 hours, Balint told Piccininni he had to leave to protect his health.
Balint said in his suit that about 20 minutes after he left, Piccininni emailed him, telling him he was fired.
Before filing a lawsuit, Balint first tried to resolve the situation by filing a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation.
But an EEOC conciliation process was unable to reach a settlement between Balint and the club. On July 28, 2021, the EEOC issued Balint a dismissal and notice of his right to sue.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in August 2021, Balint claimed discrimination and retaliation under both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the state Human Rights Law. He sought back pay, front pay, the value of lost benefits, and compensatory and punitive damages, in amounts that would have been determined at trial.
Russell Adler, Balint’s attorney, declined to comment on the settlement. Balint could not be reached for comment.
Jeffrey Shooman, the attorney for the golf club, did not respond to requests for comment. Piccininni and representatives of the club did not respond, either.