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JCC settles former administrator’s age discrimination suit; terms sealed

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Jefferson Community College has settled a federal age discrimination lawsuit brought by a former administrator who claimed she was forced to step down from her job before she was ready.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter, Syracuse, has ordered terms of the settlement sealed, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

Gail W. Miller, Chaumont, the school’s former director of college outreach, filed suit in May 2012 against the college, its board of trustees, Jefferson County, college President Carole A. McCoy and Sarah H. Baldwin, the college’s former vice president of administration, alleging her job was eliminated in 2010 in retaliation for her complaining to the trustees about age discrimination in 2008.

According to the suit, Mrs. Miller began her career at JCC in 1994 as the affirmative action/diversity officer, and she became director of academic advising in 1998. In 2000, she was promoted to assistant to the college president for special programs while continuing in her affirmative action role. She claimed to have received “excellent” performance reviews in 2002 and 2006 from then-President John W. Deans.

In January 2007, Mrs. McCoy was appointed president, and Mrs. Miller claimed that two months later she was told by Mrs. McCoy that she was going to be transferred to the director of human resources position or take a pay cut. Mrs. Miller accepted the transfer, which included an increased workload, including the implementation of a new software database. She claimed that requests for assistance were denied and that her staff was cut.

According to court documents, she received an unfavorable employment review for the first time in her career in January 2009 and was provided a plan to improve her performance. Six months later, she was offered the newly created position of executive director of college outreach, which she started in June 2009. She claimed the job was created “in an effort to simply get rid” of her.

She maintained she was given an office that “was nothing more than a former closet” and in an area targeted for renovation. She claimed that the office was “water-damaged and the rug was filthy” and that the room often was cold, causing her to have asthma attacks.

In April 2010, she was informed that her position was being eliminated in the school’s budget and that if she wanted another job on campus she would have to apply for it, despite the fact that one of her former positions was open, albeit with a different title. Her contract, however, called for her to be given a year’s notice before her job could be eliminated.

About four months before her job was due to be eliminated, she claimed, she was “forced” to retire “for the sole purpose of maintaining the benefits of retirement including payments of health care insurance during (her) lifetime.” If she had not retired, and her job was eliminated, she would have lost the benefits.

Mrs. Miller maintained that, while she was promoted early in her career and for years received excellent performance reviews, as she grew older she was treated differently from younger employees and that, instead of resolving her complaints about age issues, the defendants collaborated on how to terminate her employment.

The county, in response, denied all of the allegations and asked to have the action dismissed. Friday, attorneys for both sides filed a stipulation seeking to have the matter dismissed owing to the settlement. A final dismissal awaits a judge’s approval.

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