Discrimination suit against Siouxland Community Health Center, C - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Discrimination suit against Siouxland Community Health Center, CEO moves to federal court


A lawsuit, filed by a former Siouxland Community Health Center worker against the center, and it's CEO has been moved to federal court.

Back in November, Sharon Robertson filed an order demanding a jury trial in Woodbury County District Court.

Robertson claims CEO Michelle Stephan subjected her to a hostile work environment because of Robertson's sexual orientation.

From the time she was hired to work at the Siouxland Community Health Center, in 2004, Sharon Robertson said she was forced to work in a "hostile and pervasive atmosphere of discrimination and harassment based on her sexual orientation."

Robertson, who is a lesbian, says CEO Michelle Stephan subjected her to "unwanted and unwelcome sexual comments, sexual e-mails, sexual texts, and sexual jokes."

In 2009, Robertson claims the "volume and content of the text and e-mails messages" from Stephan "became more than just inappropriate", claiming they were "harassing" and "created a hostile work environment."

By March of 2010, Robertson says she personally told Stephan she found the texts "offensive," and oftentimes "harassing" and asked her to stop saying the messages were affecting Robertson's personal life, family, and relationship with her partner.

In retaliation, Robertson says Stephan would publicly humiliate her.

By doing so, Robertson claims Stephan undermined her authority and credibility.

In November of 2011, Robertson claims Stephan, who was her supervisor, left her out of meetings, and often canceled meetings with Robertson.

Later that same month, Robertson was fired. In a counterclaim, filed in federal court on January 22nd, Stephan denies all of Robertson's allegations.

Stephan also claims Robertson never used reporting procedures available to her to report her allegations while she worked at the Siouxland Community Health Center.

Stephan's lawyer wants the entire claim of "hostile work environment", and "discrimination based on sexual orientation" dropped from the lawsuit.

But, Robertson also claims age discrimination by Stephan. Robertson, who is 46-years-old, says Stephan asked her to fire certain employees.

Robertson says most employees, who were fired, were over the age of 40, and were replaced with staff that were under the age of 40.

Stephan denies both claims, and that age had anything to do with those firings.

Robertson wants a jury trial. Robertson's seeking past and present wages, and benefits. Robertson is also asking for compensation for past and future suffering, and emotional distress. Robertson has also asked for punitive damages, and all past and future medical and counseling expenses.

The case was moved to federal court in January. No trial date has been set in the case.


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