In an issue that was first raised by Alderman and Mayoral candidate Robert Van Campen last month, City Solicitor Colleen Mejia reported this week to the Board of Aldermen that the city has been forced to defend itself against a total of seven employee brought litigation actions since 2007 and has spent approximately $78,000 on settling these suits.
The $78,000 spent includes two settlements totaling $27,000, in which the city’s legal insurer had decided that the cost of defending the cases any further would exceed what it would cost to settle the suits and close them.
In addition, the city’s insurer also urged a $225,000 settlement in a wrongful termination suit in 2011, which the city has not admitted wrong doing, but the insurer determined the “value of the case” and urged it be settled. The $225,000 was paid by the insurer and city funds were not used in the settlement.
As of July 15, 2013, three of the seven cases remain open and according to Mejia are being defended by the city and its insurance company.
Mejia provided a brief account of each of the seven suits for Aldermen, which is now part of the public record and can be requested by any city residents seeking it.
Below is a quick synopsis of the seven cases, according to Mejia’s response to Alderman Van Campen.
– The wrongful termination suit was first filed in 2009 by two former employees. Following the discovery portion of the suit, one of the employees voluntarily dismissed her claim. The other employee agreed to settle for the $225,000, which was paid by the insurance company.
– A Superior Court Case filed in 2012 was brought by a former employee who had previously sued, unsuccessfully, for unemployment benefits after she voluntarily left her position and moved to another state. She later moved back to Massachusetts and attempted to get her job back, but the city did not hire her. She has since sued in Superior Court stating that she was forced to resign from her position. The case is pending.
– In 2009 a retired employee claimed discrimination because the city refused to pay him a separation incentive that was being offered by the Mayor, because he had filed to retire due to a mandatory retirement clause related to his position. The separation incentive was intended for people who voluntarily chose to separate from the city. The employee filed an age discrimination suit against the city and the Insurance company determined that the cost of fighting the suit outweighed the $15,000 incentive the employee could receive. The city settled for the $15,000.
– In 2010 an employee who had been out on a long term medical leave, filed suit for age discrimination after the city filed paperwork for the employee to retire. Again, the insurance company determined that paying the $12,000 settlement was a better benefit to the city than fighting the claim.
– In 2011, an employee filed a discrimination suit for health reasons, despite the fact the city has documented that it has accommodated a work schedule compatible with the employee’s medical condition. The matter is pending before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. The MCAD has not yet ruled whether the employee has met the burden of proof for discrimination.
– In 2012 a fourth MCAD case was filed by an employee who was terminated for cause. The MCAD ruled in the city’s favor and dismissed the case for lack of probable cause. The employee filed an appeal with the federal court and the case was denied there as well.
– In 2013, another MCAD case was brought by an employee who was found to be unqualified for a promotion due to “the fact that she refused to take shifts, was often late for work and failed to show up for work on occasion,” according to Mejia’s account to the Aldermen. The employee is now claiming gender discrimination, because the person who was promoted was male. However, the city contends the employee who was promoted “was the most qualified candidate who applied.” MCAD has not yet determined if there is probable cause for the case to go forward.