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Dorchester nonprofit files discrimination complaint against Greenway

The Rose Kennedy Greenway, looking towards the south.David L Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2017/Globe Staff

The Dorchester nonprofit that lost its contract after maintaining the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway for 10 years filed a state complaint Thursday alleging that the Greenway and its executive director discriminated against the nonprofit and its disabled workers.

James Cassetta, president of WORK Inc., told the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination that the Greenway Conservancy, which supervises the downtown Boston park, “unlawfully severed its longstanding relationship with WORK Inc. on the basis of WORK Inc.’s association with and support of disabled persons and workers.”

WORK Inc., which was replaced Oct. 1 by a for-profit company from Kentucky, had been using four workers with disabilities this year on its Greenway crew of 9½ full-time employees, company officials said.


The Greenway Conservancy rejected WORK Inc.’s assertions.

“While we have not yet reviewed the complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy is an organization that does not tolerate discrimination,’’ the group said in a statement. “WORK Inc.’s allegations are false and misrepresent their working relationship with the conservancy and our process. ‘’

Maintenance of the Greenway is now being done by Block by Block, which also is cleaning Downtown Crossing and its surroundings.

Cassetta wrote in the complaint that Jesse Brackenbury, the conservancy’s executive director, “repeatedly demonstrated his discriminatory animus toward WORK Inc., its disabled workers, and WORK Inc.’s mission.”

Brackenbury revealed his hostility to WORK Inc. “through barely veiled discriminatory allegations that WORK Inc. employees did not meet the ‘brand’ of the Greenway and complaints regarding the appearance of WORK Inc. employees,” Cassetta alleged.

Brackenbury could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Those complaints followed the Greenway’s request for contract bids in February, Cassetta said. They involved workers wearing earbuds, having “their shirts untucked at times, or wearing shirts with the older Greenway logo instead of the new one,” according to the discrimination complaint.


The new logo, Cassetta said in an interview, removed Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy’s name and instead read, “The Greenway.”

WORK Inc. serves 1,200 people with physical, psychological, and developmental challenges through residential and employment programs, among others. The nonprofit also provides workers with disabilities to maintain federal buildings such as the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

“I still to this day do not have a letter in my files that criticizes anything that we ever did on the Greenway” before the conservancy sought new contract proposals, Cassetta said in the interview. “I think they started to build up a case so they didn’t have to award a contract to WORK Inc.”

In a letter to the Globe this week, Greenway Conservancy board members said that WORK Inc. had “ongoing problematic management practices, such as running out of supplies, equipment being out of service, and no work plans.

“Conservancy staff has been in communication throughout this process with WORK Inc., and WORK Inc. offered a written plan to improve its performance,” the letter read. “The conservancy then offered a contract extension, but WORK Inc. declined it. Unfortunately, our efforts didn’t lead to a continuation of the partnership.”

In an interview last week, Brackenbury did not cite any complaints about WORK Inc.’s maintenance of the Greenway except that the nonprofit had once run out of de-icing salt during a snowstorm.

In the complaint, Cassetta countered that he did outline a plan for improvement. He also called the six-month extension offer a “bad-faith” proposal that would not have allowed WORK Inc. to break even and was designed to make the nonprofit fail.


Even if the MCAD upholds the complaint, Cassetta said he would not return to the Greenway under its current administration.

WORK Inc. had maintained the Greenway — emptying trash, picking up litter, erasing graffiti, shoveling snow, and power-washing under food trucks — every day from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., whatever the weather. Cassetta said three of the four workers with disabilities who lost their Greenway jobs have been placed in equal or better positions.

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at brian.macquarrie@globe.com.