Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon employees file claims of harassment, bias against town

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
June 26, 2007

VERNON - Two town employees - one in Public Works and one in Data Processing - have filed civil rights complaints against the town, making charges of harassment and bias.

Mary P. Pippin, who served as acting director of data processing, and laborer Maurice Hill Sr., an employee in the Public Works Department, filed their claims with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities within the last two weeks.

Pippin claims she was the victim of sexual discrimination because she was not appointed to the permanent job of director even though she was more qualified than the male applicants.

Hill contends that for the last four years he has been harassed by supervisors and fellow co-workers and discriminated against because he is black.

The town hired Pippin in 1991 as an information technology analyst for the school system. She was appointed acting director of data processing when former director Robert Scofield became ill.

She applied for the permanent director's position when Scofield died on Feb. 2.

Two weeks later, the town advertised for a replacement. In her complaint, Pippin claims she was "fully qualified for the position," which she had held and performed for more than a year.

Pippin says in her complaint that in the hiring process, only male candidates were granted second interviews for the job and she charges that she was the better qualified candidate.

Arthur Beirn was appointed to the post May 1.

"I have been discriminated against in my employment" by the town "on the basis of my sex," Pippin says in the complaint.

Hill, meanwhile, has been a town employee since January 2003, working as a laborer in the Public Works Department. Of the 15 employees, Hills says, he is the only African American or minority, and since he began working for the town has been "targeted for harassment, and discriminatory treatment" by supervisors and co-workers, all of whom are white.

Hill first filed a similar complaint with CHRO in November 2004, claiming he was subject to unequal treatment because of race and color.

He contends in his latest complaint that the town has tried to retaliate against him for the previous filing by making its contents known to co-workers, causing anger and low morale, and placing a report in his personnel file "criticizing me for speaking out against the harassment."

Hill claims to have been passed over for cross-training, promotions, and overtime opportunities, while being assigned to work in the department's "rubbish rotation" longer than white employees.

He also charges that he was subjected to inappropriate questioning by fellow workers concerning his schedule and has been required to submit medical certifications for missed work.

In his complaint, Hill says he was identified in a recent internal survey as being the single cause for low morale in the Public Works Department.

Officials say the claims have been referred to the town's insurance company.

Town Administrator Christopher Clark says both claims are without merit and the hearing process will bear that out.

©Journal Inquirer 2007