Background Info for Rally to Support Bullied Lancaster, NY Bus Drivers

Lancaster, NY, Bus Drivers

Lancaster, NY, Bus Drivers

From []. Rally, Monday, May 12, 2014, 6-7 PM

The complaints paint Robert W. Mowry as a bully, sexual harasser and a boss who intimidates, torments and humiliates female employees. The women behind the complaints claim Mowry, transportation supervisor at the Lancaster Central School District, engaged in a pattern of age, sex and disability discrimination that began years ago and continues today.

They tell stories of Mowry showing up unannounced at one of their homes, abusing them verbally in front of co-workers and creating a workplace hostile to the sick and disabled.

They also wonder why Lancaster hired him when court records indicate he was forced out of his previous job at the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District because of similar allegations of harassment. “He likes to prey on the weak and thrives on people getting upset,” said Mary D. Juliano, 53, a bus driver and one of the women who filed charges. “You don’t dare cry in front of him because then he knows he’s got you. He’ll harass you forever.”

Juliano is one of at least six women who filed discrimination complaints with state and federal agencies the past several years.

Each accused Mowry of harassment.

Four of the six women who filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or state Division of Human Rights agreed to speak with The Buffalo News about Mowry’s alleged conduct and the school district’s response to their concerns.

The others said they could not talk because their settlements prohibit them from speaking publicly about their complaints. “He kept calling me into the office to harass and scare me,” said Gina Scaglione, 47, a bus driver and one of the women with charges still pending. “It’s a horrible nightmare. No one should have to work like this.”

Mowry declined to comment on the allegations.

Lancaster Superintendent Michael J. Vallely said he could not comment on the specific allegations against Mowry, but he made it clear the district adheres to all laws regarding harassment and discrimination and has internal policies for handling employee complaints. He said Lancaster also has a long-standing practice of disciplining employees who discriminate and of firing repeat offenders. He noted there have been no determinations by outside agencies that his administration ever did anything wrong.

“To date, there have been no findings of discrimination, harassment or retaliation by the district by any administrative agencies or the courts,” Vallely said. He added: “We would handle any complaint that comes to us and do a prompt and thorough investigation.”

Most of the women who filed charges are more senior employees, such as Deborah Bak, 63, a Lancaster bus driver for nearly four decades. In her five-page complaint, Bak details a wide range of incidents in which she claims Mowry discriminated against her because of her age and gender.

“Deb Bak is a courageous plaintiff and has incredible credibility for 39-plus years,” said Lindy Korn, Bak’s lawyer. “The fact that she is treated less well than someone younger or male makes it more egregious.” One educator who did talk about the allegations is retired Lancaster Superintendent Edward J. Myszka, who acknowledges a familiarity with the complaints but dismisses them as the work of a few difficult and disgruntled employees.

He describes Mowry as a “fantastic transportation director” and says none of the allegations against him was ever substantiated. “He’s got very difficult people to supervise,” said Myszka, a 46-year veteran of the district. “If employees don’t get their way, they lash out differently.”

Taken to court

The complaints against Mowry are the latest in a series of allegations that date back to at least 2001, when he was transportation supervisor at the Niagara Wheatfield district. One of his bus drivers sued the district in federal court that year, claiming Mowry sexually harassed her and other female employees.

The woman would not talk about the case but, in her suit, accused him of offering better working conditions in return for sex. She claimed Mowry asked her out for a drink, mentioned his cabin to her and a female co-worker and went so far as to give them directions to the cabin. “Those allegations were unsubstantiated,” Myszka said. “To me, they were unfounded.”

Myszka said Lancaster officials spoke with the personnel director at Niagara Wheatfield and came away convinced the allegations were off-base.

Court records tell a different story.

While Niagara Wheatfield denied the woman’s claims, court documents indicate the district offered to release Mowry from his job as part of an eventual settlement. “The district is willing, as you requested, to release Mr. Mowry from his employment,” the district said in July 2002 letter to the woman’s lawyer. “Mr. Mowry will resign, and the district will accept his resignation.”

Court records indicate Mowry resigned a month later.

Later that same year, the woman asked for assurances that Mowry would never be rehired, and court documents indicate the district agreed to that condition as well. When the woman still wouldn’t agree to a settlement, Niagara Wheatfield asked the court to intervene. U.S. District Judge John V. Elfvin, who died five years ago, refused to enforce the “purported settlement,” and court documents indicate district officials upped the ante by offering $5,000 in cash.

It’s not clear from the record if the woman accepted it, but the case was closed a few months later. Like Myszka, retired Lancaster bus driver Carol Latchford said she and her fellow drivers were well aware of the lawsuit when Mowry first arrived in Lancaster. After working with him for 10 years – she retired in 2012 – she came away convinced he’s a strong but fair supervisor. And she said a lot of drivers see him that way.

“There are women in that bus garage who have no problem with the guy,” Latchford said.

When Mowry took over, he inherited a workplace that was lax and undisciplined, said Linda Crossetta, a bus driver for the past 20 years. She says Mowry came in and changed that culture, and one of the consequences of his efforts is a group of “disgruntled” employees eager to force him out.

“He runs a tight ship,” Crossetta said. “A lot of people think they’re being harassed when he’s just doing his job.”

Directions: From Transit Road, take Broadway (Rt. 20) east and turn left at Central Avenue. Follow Central Avenue to Forton Road right near the Lancaster High School. Just before Central Avenue turns left, Forton Road and the church are directly ahead of you.

From Genesee Street (Rt.33), go east to Harris Hill Road south. Harris Hill becomes Central Avenue right after you pass Pleasant View Drive. You will see the church on your left and the High School. Turn left onto Forton Drive and park at the church.

It is expected the media will be in attendance and NYHWA will be present. If you have any questions, please contact us at You are welcome to attend the Board meeting at 7:00 to see if anything is spoken about the latest issues on the abusive work environment the bus drivers are experiencing.


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