Tyrone manager alleges gender bias by former employer Fayette

Tue, 04/14/2009 - 3:55pm
By: John Munford

Former Fayette County Administrator Christine Venice has filed a federal lawsuit against the county, alleging that she was asked to resign in April 2007 because of her gender.

Venice is the current town manager in Tyrone.

While the suit offers no details to buttress the claim against the board of commissioners, it contends that her job performance “was exemplary, and she was never disciplined nor counseled for any job performance deficiencies or disciplinary infractions.”

“Plaintiff would not have been terminated from employment absent defendant’s consideration of her gender, female,” the complaint states.

County Attorney Scott Bennett said the county intends to fight the lawsuit in court.

“She raised several objections and issues that there are just no merit to,” Bennett said.

Bennett said in the nearly two years since Venice’s departure the county had not been made aware of any gender discrimination claims on her behalf.

The lawsuit also addresses a contractual issue relating to Venice’s employment contract. That contract required the county, in the event of her termination, to continue paying for and providing her medical insurance on the county’s insurance plan until she reached the age of 65.

In mid-December the county notified Venice it would not continue the medical insurance for her because it violated the county’s insurance contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

In a letter to Venice’s attorney, Bennett said Venice didn’t qualify for county-paid insurance because she did not meet the criteria of being retired at age 55 with 25 years of consecutive service to the county.

In the suit, Venice is seeking reinstatement of her county-provided insurance, punitive damages, front pay or retroactive reinstatement to the position and lost wages and benefits of employment.

The suit also alleges that the county has sought to restrict Venice’s right of free speech, petition and access to the courts by threatening to seek a nullification of her full contract should she file a suit about the insurance issue.

In a letter to Venice’s attorney, County Attorney Bennett indicated that should she file suit over the insurance issue, the county would seek to recoup the $128,000 in severance pay Venice was granted under the contract along with payroll taxes and insurance premiums.

Bennett wrote that since Venice’s contract was amended at the final meeting of the previous board of commissioners, the entire contract could be seen as imposing a financial burden on future boards, endangering the legal viability of the entire contract.

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