PTC seeks to settle lawsuit

The Peachtree City Council voted Thursday night to pursue a settlement of an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a former administrative assistant for the police department.

Details were not available, but council’s vote authorized attorneys for the city to “resolve” the case according to what was discussed in executive (closed) session.

The lawsuit by former administrative assistant Lisa Ficalore claims that she was discriminated against because of a disability. The suit was filed in April after the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined Ficalore had a right to file the lawsuit based on claims she made beginning in April 2011.

The EEOC determined that the evidence in the case showed that Police Chief H.C. “Skip” Clark “openly discussed” Ficalore’s disability and “his frustration” with her due to the disability and “his desire to discharge her on the basis of her usage of medical leave for her disability.”

“The evidence further indicates that (Ficalore) was often singled out for retaliatory reasons thus creating a hostile work environment,” according to EEOC’s December 2012 ruling. “Lastly, evidence indicates that (Ficalore’s) coworkers were threatened and intimidated by (Clark) when they supported her allegations of disability discrimination and unlawful retaliation.”

The city denied the allegations, according to the EEOC.

Ficalore’s lawsuit claims that Clark intimidated two high-ranking officers in the department during the EEOC investigation. On one occasion, the suit claims Clark threatened former police Major Mike Dupree that things would be “bad” if Dupree did not back him up on the matter.

The lawsuit further claims that Clark intimidated police Capt. Stan Pye during the EEOC investigation by telling Pye that it is “easy to get rid of people,” presumably a reference to firing personnel.
Those alleged actions led to the EEOC issuing a letter ordering Clark to cease and desist from such conduct.

In the lawsuit, Lisa Ficalore claims that she was “retaliated against and singled out because of her gender and disability” on an ongoing basis, a pattern that began shortly after Clark became police chief. According to the lawsuit, Ficalore’s medical condition has required multiple surgeries and numerous occasions during which she has had to take extended leaves of absence from work.

The lawsuit cites how Clark had Ficalore’s job title reduced from staff assistant to the police chief to staff assistant, cutting her pay grade and class level in a proposal approved by the City Council. That action took place in October 2010, just over two months after Clark took office.

The lawsuit also claims that in January 2011, Ficalore received a second demotion when she was reassigned from the police department to a front-desk position in city hall classified as “customer service representative II.”

That position was ultimately eliminated in May 2012 by council at the request of City Manager Jim Pennington, and Ficalore was offered the option of taking a part-time position without benefits or resign and receive six weeks of severance pay. Ficalore chose to stay on part-time, but the loss of medical, life and dental insurance as well as disability coverage and rights under the Family Medical Leave Act “was financially and emotionally devastating” to Ficalore, the lawsuit claims.

After filing her initial complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in February 2011, Ficalore claims that she suffered continuing retaliation from the city and its agents, including the demotions and denial of employment for different positions in the city for which Ficalore contends she is more qualified than the individuals who were ultimately selected.