Two longtime Mesa employees are seeking compensation for alleged discriminatory treatment by their supervisor.
Two longtime Mesa employees are seeking compensation for alleged discriminatory treatment by their supervisor, leading to one of them being on the verge of getting fired and the other forced to take early retirement.
In May, Mesa attorney Robert M. Gregory filed two notices of claim, the first step in a lawsuit, on behalf of Karen Lisonbee, a 25-year city employee, recently retired, and Paul Bee, a 15-year employee. Both worked in Mesa's utilities department.
Mesa has until July 1 to respond to the notices, which accuse their supervisor, Alisha Solano, Management Assistant II, of creating adverse working conditions and discriminating against the two on the basis of their disabilities.
In absence of a response, the next step would be to file lawsuits, Gregory told the Tribune.
Bee suffers from Crohn's Disease, an autoimmune disease, which causes prolonged fatigue and sleeplessness, among other health issues, and Lisonbee has fibromyalgia, marked by chronic debilitating pain.
Mesa City Attorney Debbie Spinner said her office is still looking into the claims and has not yet responded. If the city doesn't choose to respond, then it's deemed a denial, she explained.
Gregory said both Bee and Lisonbee had "done well" over the years and had not had any problems until they started reporting to Solano in January 2008.
"Both of my clients had disabilities, but they were still doing their expected work duties. I believe and my clients believe that the city took action against them because of their disabilities and took advantage of them," Gregory said.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating the discrimination charges.
Bee and Lisonbee are seeking their salary for the next two years from Mesa, along with attorney fees. If it goes on to become a lawsuit, they plan to claim $1 million each in compensation.
In both cases, it's alleged that Mesa has "applied its own policies and procedures regarding attendance in a discriminatory manner."
In Lisonbee's case, the claim notice states that Solano "subjected Ms. Lisonbee to harassment and threatened with disciplinary actions and scrutinized her work in more detail when compared to the younger employees in the office."
"Other people would be late but not reprimanded or they would miss assignments and not be reprimanded," said Gregory.
The report further states that managerial tasks that Lisonbee had performed for decades and supervisory responsibilities were removed from her. Lisonbee elected to retire in March 2009.
Bee, according to the claim notice, was informed of a scheduling change in April 2008, which would require employees to follow a regular work schedule, eliminating flexible schedules. Bee claims to have requested accommodation because of his disability, but the request was not addressed until January 2009. In between that, Solano disciplined Bee for failing to complete his work assignments, the report states.
Bee was suspended recently and then given notice of a hearing with the intent to terminate his employment, said Gregory. Instead, he has taken a medical leave of absence.
"The main reason was that he was late to work on a few occasions, but he was late because of his disability," said Gregory.