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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, February 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Vampire Taunts on the Job Send Immigrant to Court

CHICAGO (CN) - A securities salesman with a slight Hungarian accent says in Federal Court that co-workers taunted him with pictures of bats and vampires, and called him "Count."

Steve Harzso is "an experienced, successful fixed income securities sales professional," according to the March 5 complaint. For part of the decade he spent working for Mizuho Securities USA, Harzso was allegedly the Chicago office's only foreign-born salesperson.

Harzso says emigrated from Hungary at age 24 and became a U.S. citizen. He speaks English with a mild accent.

Mizuho co-workers allegedly began harassing Harzso based on his national origin during his third year with the company in 2007.

"In 2009, they began placing pictures of bats and vampires on his cubicle wall," the complaint states. "One of Mizuho's managing directors in New York called Harzso 'Count.'"

Harzso says "management removed the satirical vampire pictures" once, but did not take action when the images reappeared later.

After suffering a severe seizure in 2011, Harzso says he was diagnosed with a nonmalignant brain tumor.

Taking the anti-seizure medication Keppra allegedly made Harzso drowsy, but his co-workers allegedly took no pity on him.

"Harzso's co-workers mocked him when the Keppra occasionally caused him to briefly fall asleep, taking photos and videos of him with their cell phones," the complaint states. "Also, [his supervisor] ... made a show out of waking Harzso up, yelling at him over the department's cubicle walls."

Mizuho allegedly denied Harzso's request for disability leave, then denied an accommodation when a seizure caused him to injure his shoulder.

Normally Mizuho strictly forbids interoffice client poaching, but the company turned a blind eye when it came to Harzso's accounts during this period, according to the complaint.

"Harzso would have been fired immediately if he were poaching another representative's accounts," he says.

When Harzso complained, the lucrative account that a co-worker was trying to poach from him was taken away from Harzso entirely, according to the complaint.

Harzso, who turns 54 this year, says he was fired in 2013 and replaced with a nondisabled salesman 18 years younger.

Andrew Haber with Favaro & Gorman in Palatine, Ill., represents the plaintiff in his complaint for ERISA interference, disability discrimination, national origin discrimination, and age discrimination. Harzso seeks punitive damages.

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