An East Kingston woman who reported an incident of racial harassment at a Town of Ulster Walmart has been fired from her job because of language she used in the aftermath of the alleged incident.
Kristin Montalvo said that she shopping for groceries with her husband and two daughters on April 7 when a man approached her and said, “Is this a Mexico market?” Montalvo said that when she confronted the man over the remark, he repeated the statement and told her, “It’s freedom of speech, I can say whatever I want to whoever I want.”
Following the confrontation, Montalvo recorded video on her cell phone as she followed the unidentified man through and out of the store while loudly and at times profanely berating him over the remark. Montalvo later reported the incident to Ulster town police who told her that they could not make an arrest since the man did not appear to have broken any law. Video of the incident was posted on the Facebook page of the local social justice activist group Rise Up Kingston, where it garnered thousands of views. But among those who saw it were, apparently, Montalvo’s employers at The Arc of Ulster-Greene. Montalvo is employed as a program specialist at the Pecora Center, a day program for adults with intellectual disabilities.
Montalvo said that two days after the video was posted, she was called into a supervisor’s office and informed that she was being let go, based on the language and behavior portrayed in the video. Montalvo said that her supervisor did not go into detail. But, at one point during the video she calls the man a “retard.”
In a prepared statement, The Arc of Ulster-Greene confirmed that Montalvo was fired because of her actions at Walmart. “It was very unfortunate what was said to Kristin and the Arc of Ulster Greene does not endorse any type of disrespectful or hateful language being used by people,” wrote Arc spokeswoman Lori McCabe. “That being said … we will not tolerate any employee of our organization to refer to anyone using a derogatory term that we have fought decades to be removed from all vocabulary.”
Montalvo said she thinks it’s unfair that she was fired for an angry outburst while she was not on duty or wearing anything identifying her as an Arc employee. Montalvo said shortly before her termination, she had been praised by fellow employees for engaging with clients at the Pecora Center.
“I shouldn’t have used that word. I said it out of anger, because I was just so mad at this guy who had insulted my family,” said Montalvo. “I would never say that to anyone at my job or anything like that.”