Sunday, August 03, 2008

Hoosier Lottery Paid $225,000 To Settle Ex-Attorney's Discrimination Suit

Tucked away in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette's story by Niki Kelly about the leadership of the Hoosier Lottery under Kathryn Densborn in today's edition is a disclosure of the amount of money paid to settle a lawsuit brought against the agency by its former general counsel, Jan Shisler, who is a quadriplegic. Shisler claimed former Lottery Director Esther Schneider discriminated against her because of her disability. It was previously reported that the state had settled the lawsuit, but the amount of the settlement had not been previously disclosed. Kelly's story tells us the settlement amount was $225,000. Of that amount, $146,000 was paid to Shisler while $78,000 went to her attorneys at the DeLaney law firm. Kelly's report indicates that the state tried to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. Kelly writes:

When elected, Daniels appointed Esther Schneider to run the lottery. Her management style eventually resulted in an anonymous complaint to the state inspector general and several legal challenges . . .

After Schneider resigned, the inspector general cleared her of criminal and ethical wrongdoing. But several lawsuits taint her tenure.

One was filed by Janna Shisler, general counsel for the lottery since 1992, who is a quadriplegic. She provided her own accessible desk, adaptive typing device and equipment to facilitate her work. She had consistently received excellent performance appraisals, the complaint filed in federal court said.

An executive assistant provided Shisler with general administrative support, such as retrieving, moving and carrying documents.

In late January 2005, Schneider informed Shisler the lottery was going to terminate her employment when the executive assistant retired in March. According to the suit, Schneider stated that she intended to initiate a rapid transition and she didn’t believe Shisler could keep up with the pace because of her disability.

When a new executive assistant was hired, he declined to provide Shisler with the same assistance.

The complaint said Schneider began a pattern of criticizing Shisler in front of other staff members and habitually yelling at her. At one point, Schneider ripped a document into pieces and threw the pieces at Shisler.

Shisler was fired in late September 2005. After receiving a “Notice of Right to Sue” from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she filed suit in 2007, claiming the lottery intentionally discriminated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Schneider, for her part, said in a 2005 performance report that she saved the lottery $50,000 by moving the general counsel position to the Attorney General’s Office.

In April 2008, the lottery lost in an effort to dismiss the case and settled the matter just a few weeks later.

The settlement has been kept confidential until now. The Journal Gazette obtained details through a public-records request. It shows the lottery paid Shisler $146,000 and her attorneys $78,000 to settle the case while admitting no wrongdoing.

The agreement said Shisler is eligible for rehire, but she agreed not to apply for re-employment with the lottery while Daniels is governor or Densborn is lottery director.

The lottery also tried its best to keep the settlement quiet. The agreement prohibited the parties involved from directly or indirectly publicizing, revealing or in any other manner drawing attention to the settlement or causing someone to make a request for it.

3 comments:

Flynn said...

This highlights one area where the Daniels administration is extremely weak (and I say that as a supporter of Daniels) - lack of oversight of the agencies and departments. There is a steadfast refusal on the part of the Governor's people to investigate alleged wrongdoing at state agencies. The Governor's people, when they hear about problems, they need to INVESTIGATE what's going on and see if the allegations are valid. But they will not do it. It's a real Achilles heal for Gov. Daniels and something Long Thompson could very well exploit.

I anticipate that all the lawsuits against state agencies is going to be rolled out at some point during her campaign. It would be a solid defense if he were taking a proactive approach to supervision of agencies so as to avoid litigation.

artfuggins said...

Yes, when you start punishing people for being disabled, your are treading on thin ice legally as well as morally. Mitch needs a heart.

Lottery said...

The Lottery also tried its best to keep the settlement quiet. The settlement has been kept confidential until now. The Journal Gazette obtained details through a public-records request.