Former principal Karey Scholten has filed a lawsuit against the school district and superintendent Mark Tompkins, alleging a hostile working environment and wrongful removal from her position as a principal.
"Our biggest legal concern that we have is that the superintendent forced a medical leave on Ms. Scholten without any justification for doing so, and that led to a series of events that occurred, kind of like a stone causing ripples in a pond, from people wildly speculating about the nature of Ms. Scholten's medical leave to the disruption in her own life and professional career," said Nicholas Roumel, lawyer for Scholten.
Scholten had been moved to an administrative position as a curriculum director for the 2011-2012 school year, and the district cut that position, citing budget constraints.
But Scholten alleges discrimination and wrongful termination based on disability, gender, hostile environment and retaliation. She initially filed that complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Nov. 7, 2011, and received a right to sue letter in April of 2012.
"The District is aware of the lawsuit. Although we were not expecting it, especially after the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and MDCR (Michigan Department of Civil Rights) investigated and dismissed Ms. Scholten's previous discrimination charges against the district," said Tompkins in a statement. "We do not believe we that we have violated any of Ms. Scholten's legal rights. However, because this is now a matter of pending litigation, the district will answer the allegations through the court process, and not discuss the merits in the media."
Scholten's case fell under authority of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said Jacki Miller, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
"I opened the query and it looks like the case has gone over to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and is not our case anymore. We did investigate, and then the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission assumed jurisdiction. I wouldn't really use the word 'dismiss,'" said Miller.
Bill Vogelzang, lawyer for the school district, said his firm is just beginning to look into the details of the case.
"The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had the right to do their own investigation, and chose not to do that, which we see as being supportive of the district's position that there was no discrimination, no retaliation and no violation of any laws or any of her rights," said Vogelzang. "Our position is that the district was quite compassionate and did everything they could to try to help her, but she doesn't see it that way."
Roumel said acquiring a right-to-sue letter is required by law.
"We followed the EEOC process because that's the mandatory prerequisite for filing a lawsuit," said Roumel. "The EEOC did not have any sort of hearing, and any finding they may have made has no bearing on what will happen in federal court."
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could not be reached for comment.
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