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$94,000 Settlement over New York Jail Discriminating Against Pregnant Guard

A U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit brought against Niagara County, New York, over employment discrimination against a pregnant county jail guard drove the county's litigation expenses to a new record high in 2015. In addition to paying the guard a $94,000 settlement, the county had to pay the attorneys representing it $158,089 in 2015. This was in addition to the $129,206 it already paid the attorneys for representation in the same case in 2013 and 2014. It accounted for nearly half of the $350,662 the county paid the Buffalo firm of Jaeckle Fleishmann & Mugel to represent it in various cases in 2015.

In 2007, Caria L. Boddecker was a cellblock guard in the county jail when she became pregnant. Her physician recommended her removal from that duty to light duty. The Sheriff's Department refused and gave her a choice of continuing to work in a cellblock or take unpaid leave under the federal family and Medical Leave Act. She chose the latter, but soon discovered that male colleges who were injured and whose doctors recommended them for light duty were being allowed to work in the control room. So she filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which investigated and referred the matter to the DOJ for prosecution for gender discrimination.

The county settled the case in December 2015, paying Boddecker $95,000.

"Probably the biggest issue: it was getting pretty expensive," said County Attorney Claude A. Joerg.

Well, duh! The county spent trice the cost of the settlement in attorney fees. Perhaps it should have settled sooner. Perhaps it would have had a private law firm not been reaping large profits defending it.

Source: Thomas J. Prohaska

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