Pitkin County, ex-HR worker to talk settlement in discrimination suit | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County, ex-HR worker to talk settlement in discrimination suit

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

A U.S. magistrate judge will oversee settlement discussions next month between a former Pitkin County employee and his ex-employer.

Stephen C. Pingree filed a discrimination and retaliation suit against the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners, County Manager Jon Peacock and Human Resources Director Dannette Logan in February in the U.S. District Court of Denver. The county fired Pingree, its senior human resources director for five years, in March 2013.

Both sides are scheduled to present settlement proposals to each other one week before settlement conference, which is scheduled July 24 at the Pitkin County Attorney’s Office, according to court records. U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty will preside over the discussion.

“We’re just sitting down with the magistrate to discuss if there’s any possibility for a settlement,” said Assistant County Attorney Laura Makar.

Barring a settlement or the case being dismissed, the matter is set for a September 2016 trial before U.S. District Judge Lewis T. Babcock.

Pingree’s lawyer, Thomas Arckey of Centennial, declined comment last week.

During his time with the county, Pingree drew an average annual salary of $70,700, according to court documents. After he was fired, he couldn’t find similarly paying work in Pitkin County. He did find a job with higher pay in Rifle, but he still lives in Pitkin County, commuting nearly two hours each way, according to court papers.

Pingree’s suit accuses the county of firing him because he called it out for not elevating a part-time employee to full-time status. The woman was morbidly obsese, and the county stalled giving her full-time benefits until six weeks after he complained, the suit says.

“Four months after being made permanent, the employee died and was not able to qualify for life-insurance benefits because she had not been a permanent employee of the county for six months,” the suit says.

In September 2012, Pingree asked the county to review its handling of the employee who died. On March 8, 2013, he was fired.

Pingree also claims he received favorable job reviews, but the county reprimanded him for taking off from work for medical issues that included tending to sick relatives.

The county has countered in court filings that it didn’t retaliate against him. Rather, he was fired “due to a reduction in force.”

The county also contends that Pingree was an at-will employee, meaning he could be fired at any time.

Pingree’s suit targets the defendants for discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, interference and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act and wrongful termination under the Fair Labor Standards Act.