Ex-mayor sues county, alleges discrimination
A former Mesa County employee who was terminated last year after 31 years on the job has filed a lawsuit against the county commissioners, alleging she was discriminated against and fired because of her age and race.
Cindy Enos-Martinez, who is 54 years old, described her nationality as a mixture of Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.
Enos-Martinez levied several claims against the county in a 14-page complaint, including that her supervisors passed her over for a promotion, gave her more work than her co-workers, attempted to phase out employees over the age of 50 and failed to protect her while she was on medical leave.
The former Grand Junction mayor and current member of the District 51 Board of Education is seeking more than $100,000 in damages, including back pay and compensation for future loss of earnings.
The county received a copy of the lawsuit Friday. County Administrator Jon Peacock declined to comment on it.
Late Monday afternoon, the county issued a statement that it “strictly” follows a personnel policy not to discriminate against anyone based on age, sex, disability, religious preference, race, color, national origin or political preference.
Enos-Martinez, who was the county’s benefits specialist prior to her termination, contends in the lawsuit that she was “subjected to a pattern of disparate treatment” after Human Resources Director Nancie Flenard retired in 2007.
According to the lawsuit, Assistant County Administrator Stefani Conley, who took over supervision of the Human Resources Department, gave Enos-Martinez a negative review and no pay increase in 2007. She was the only employee in the department who didn’t receive a pay raise.
As the only employee working in benefits in the department, Enos-Martinez claims she had a demanding workload and brought it to Conley’s attention. She claims Conley responded by giving her more work, even though other employees in the department didn’t have enough to do and were looking for more assignments.
In May 2008, Conley created a new position, and its duties included supervising the benefits specialist job, and awarded it to Sheryl Coffey, a woman who had worked with the county for three years.
Enos-Martinez said she would have applied for the job, but it wasn’t posted and no formal interviews were held, according to the lawsuit.
“The fact that a position was created to supervise one employee is dubious and was a pretextual effort to eliminate Ms. Enos-Martinez’s employment,” Enos-Martinez’s lawyer, Keith Killian, wrote in the lawsuit.
Enos-Martinez also claims that Conley created a report of all employees over the age of 50 and that she learned of four employees over that age who were terminated in the eight months prior to her own termination.
After the report was created, Conley and Coffey became more critical of Enos-Martinez, and Coffey began to monitor her e-mails and length of her phone calls.
After Enos-Martinez returned from vacation in July 2008, Conley and Coffey called her into a meeting and told her that “all hell had broken loose” while she was gone because of her “mistakes.”
Other employees, however, had told Enos-Martinez that the week she was gone had been quiet and uneventful, according to the lawsuit.
The next month, Enos-Martinez asked for medical leave from work. She was required to provide more information about her condition or be seen by a county-designated physician to determine the necessity of her medical leave.
She also was required to submit an update every two weeks. She claims no other employees were subjected to those medical-leave requirements, the lawsuit says.
While she was on leave, the lawsuit alleges, Conley and Coffey changed her e-mail password and deactivated her identification badge so she couldn’t enter her workplace.
On Oct. 28, she received a letter from Human Resources Manager Sandy Perry indicating that her medical leave would expire on Nov. 4 and that she would have to use her remaining sick leave.
The letter also indicated that she couldn’t return from medical leave without a doctor’s note allowing her to return to work full-time with no restrictions, according to the lawsuit.
But in a subsequent meeting with county officials, Perry indicated that the county would post Enos-Martinez’s position immediately and she could reapply for another job with the county after she was able to obtain a doctor’s note.
No mention was made at the meeting that Enos-Martinez could use her remaining sick time to preserve her job, the lawsuit says.
Other employees, on the other hand, weren’t fired after using their medical leave, the lawsuit alleges.
“These actions indicated that Ms. Conley was acting consistent with her intention to force older employees, such as Enos-Martinez, from employment with the county,” Killian wrote in the lawsuit.
The county has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit.