WESTMINSTER -- A 15-year county schools employee was denied a job promotion because she is a woman, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Carroll Circuit Court.
Margaret A. Payne, a marketing teacher and department chairwoman at Westminster High School, says a less qualified man was hired last year for a personnel specialist job that she sought. She is seeking $1.5 million in damages from the Carroll County Board of Education.
Last April, Ms. Payne was among three men and five woman interviewed for two openings as personnel specialist, a central office job. She was not chosen for either opening.
According to the lawsuit, a 36-year-old man who has been a guidance counselor with the school system for 10 years was chosen over Ms. Payne. The man holds a bachelor's degree in secondary education and a master's degree in guidance counseling.
In contrast, the suit says, Ms. Payne, 43, holds bachelor's and master's degrees in education as well as a master's of business administration degree in personnel and industrial relations.
Ms. Payne "is notably more experienced than [the man] and is also more competent for the position," the suit says.
Edmund J. O'Meally, a Baltimore attorney representing the school board, said the suit is without merit.
"She applied for a position, and, unfortunately for her, two more-qualified people were hired," he said.
The other open position was filled by a woman who formerly worked with the state Department of Education and served as an art teacher for six years.
Ms. Payne filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May 1991 and again in February. The commission found no basis for discrimination both times. She was told her sole remedy was through the courts.
"We believe that ultimately our position will be upheld," Mr. O'Meally said.
Westminster lawyer Jeff Griffith, Ms. Payne's attorney, declined to comment on the suit.
In addition to not being hired for the personnel specialist job, Ms. Payne says she has been harmed in her career development by unfair stereotyping.
Ms. Payne "has been hindered in her career advancement, despite an outstanding performance record, by an evaluation that she is 'very aggressive, perhaps too aggressive,' " the suit says. She has been "wrongfully damaged by the imposition of the non-job related employment standard of feminine stereotypical personality traits."
Ms. Payne has suffered "losses in earnings, retirement benefits and other employee benefits" as well as "humiliation, mental pain and anguish," the suit says.
In addition to the monetary damages, Ms. Payne seeks to have the school board issue a statement saying they should have hired her for one of the personnel specialist openings.
The issue also is the subject of a companion lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.