County says woman’s firing legal

Mesa County commissioners are rejecting a former county employee’s claims that the county discriminated against her and fired her because of her race and age. Commissioners said any actions taken against the employee were lawful and based on “business necessity.”

In a 12-page response to a lawsuit filed by Cindy Enos-Martinez, an attorney for the commissioners wrote that the county’s conduct “was a just and proper exercise of Defendant’s management discretion, statutory and constitutional authority, and taken in good faith.”

Enos-Martinez was employed with the county for 31 years and worked most recently as the county’s benefits specialist before her employment was terminated in November 2008.

Enos-Martinez, 54,  a School District 51 Board of Education member and a former Grand Junction mayor, alleged that her supervisors passed her over for a promotion and gave her more work than her co-workers, and that the county attempted to phase out employees older than 50 and failed to protect her job while she was on medical leave.

She is seeking more than $100,000 in damages, including back pay and compensation for future loss of earnings.

In its response, filed by local attorney Alan Hassler, the county argues that even if a judge determines that different standards were applied to Enos-Martinez, she isn’t entitled to any damages because the county’s actions were based on bona fide job requirements and systems for determining job, compensation and promotion eligibility.

Hassler also wrote in the response that any such differences, if they existed, weren’t the result of any intent to discriminate against Enos-Martinez.

The county is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed for other reasons, as well. County officials claim Enos-Martinez failed to exhaust administrative remedies through the county, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. They also allege she failed to notify the county of any allegations of illegal conduct and give officials a reasonable opportunity to correct any misconduct.

Enos-Martinez and her attorney have moved the lawsuit from Mesa County District court to U.S. federal court because her allegations are rooted in federal employment and civil rights acts.


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