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State labor director alleged she was pressured to retire

Amount:

$2,000,000

Type:

Settlement

State:

Missouri

Venue:

Cole County

Court:

Cole County Circuit Court, 19th

Case Type:

Employment - Retaliation, Workplace Harassment, Gender Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment

Case Name:

Gracia Yancey Backer and Lucinda Guthrie v. Lawrence Rebman, Nancy Johnston, Doug Nelson, Jeremiah Nixon, Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, Missouri Division of Employment Security and State of Missouri, No. 14AC-CCOO297

Date:

December 7, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Lucinda Guthrie (Female, 54 Years), 

Gracia Yancey Backer (Female, 60 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Roger G. Brown; Roger G. Brown & Associates; Jefferson City, MO, for Lucinda Guthrie, Gracia Yancey Backer

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Jack Ward; Ph.D.; Economics; Kansas City, MO called by: Roger G. Brown

Defendant(s):

Doug Nelson, 

Jeremiah Nixon, 

Nancy Johnston, 

Lawrence Rebman, 

State of Missouri, 

Missouri Division of Employment Security, 

Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Commission

Defense Attorney(s):

Julianne Germinder; Missouri Attorney General's Office; Jefferson City, MO, for Doug Nelson, Jeremiah Nixon, Nancy Johnston, Lawrence Rebman, State of Missouri, Missouri Division of Employment Security, Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Commission ■ Nathan Weinert; Missouri Attorney General's Office; for Doug Nelson, Jeremiah Nixon, Nancy Johnston, Lawrence Rebman, State of Missouri, Missouri Division of Employment Security, Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Commission

Defendant Expert(s):

Thomas Ireland; Economics; St. Louis, MO called by: Julianne Germinder, Nathan Weinert

Facts:

Beginning in 2011, plaintiff Gracia Yancey Backer, 60s, the director of the Division of Employment Security, a Division of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, alleged that she and other supervisor-level female employees were subjected to workplace hostility and discrimination related to age and gender by Lawrence Rebman, the director of the Department of Labor. Backer was terminated in March 2013. Backer sued Rebman, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, the Missouri Division of Employment Security and the state of Missouri. Governor Jay Nixon along with Nancy Johnston, the personnel director for the labor department and Doug Nelson, the commissioner of administration, were initially named as defendants in the suit but were dismissed voluntarily. Backer alleged that Rebman, individually and as director of the labor department, created a hostile work environment and discriminated against her and other older female state employees. She claimed that younger male employees were given preferential treatment and she was pressured to retire from her position. Backer also claimed that her complaints about Rebman's actions were ignored by the governor and her termination was retaliatory. Lucinda Guthrie, chief of contributions for the employment security division, was initially a plaintiff in the suit but was severed. Guthrie's separate action against Rebman and the labor department is pending trial. The defendants disputed liability.

Injury:

Backer has been unable to find employment following her termination. She sought damages for lost wages constituting her remaining years of service and she sought her retirement benefits. Backer also claimed unspecified emotional damages. Backer's expert economist provided a report which projected Backer's lifetime future lost wages at approximately $750,000.

Result:

The parties agreed to a $2 million pre-trial settlement. Backer will receive $1.2 million with the remaining $800,000 going toward legal fees. Nixon was released from the suit under the settlement terms.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel and the public relations officer for the Attorney General's office.