Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Former Vernon staffer files lawsuit, claims discrimination

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
February 5, 2008

VERNON - A former data processing employee has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town charging discrimination based on gender.

Lawyers for Mary P. Pippin, the woman who filed the suit after not getting a top job, say their case is solid and they expect to win, even though the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities dismissed her claim in October.

"Obviously, they just dropped the ball - it's irrelevant," Pippin's lawyer John Williams said today, adding that commission decisions depend on the luck of the draw.

Whoever is assigned to the case could be pro-management or pro-worker, he said.

Pippin, who served as acting director of data processing for nearly a year, claims she was the victim of sexual discrimination because she was not appointed to the permanent job, even though she was more qualified than the male applicants.

Williams said that Pippin's suit would be successful in federal court, as she was clearly qualified for the position and a member of a protected class: female.

The town will argue that the person hired for the job, Arthur Beirn, was more qualified.

"But we can prove that's a lie," Williams said, adding, "He's screwed things up so badly over there that people are leaving as result."

Town Attorney Harold Cummings said today he was unaware of the lawsuit, which is being handled by outside counsel, but would be looking into it.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in New Haven Jan. 23 and a copy filed with the town clerk's office Monday.

Pippin was hired by the town in 1991 as an information technology analyst and later appointed acting director of data processing when then-Director Robert Scofield became ill. Scofield died a year ago, and Pippin applied at that time to be permanently appointed as director.

The town advertised for a replacement, offering $76,752 annually to start, with increases over the years of up to $91,208.

Beirn, a former Manchester town employee, was appointed to the post on May 1. Pippin resigned a few months later and now works for the city of Hartford.

Pippin charges that in the hiring process only two male candidates were granted second interviews for the job, and that she was more qualified than either candidate.

In her complaint, Pippin said she was "fully qualified for the position" and was discriminated against "on the basis of my sex."

The state commission disagreed, however, saying in its October decision that the town followed proper hiring practices and that any further investigation would likely produce no reasonable cause for fault by the town.

The town's burden of proof is much higher in the federal courts than for the state commission, however, Williams said.

©Journal Inquirer 2008