Fired employee charges city with discrimination

Former worker alleges race, gender, age bias

September 13, 2010|By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun

A former Baltimore City government employee says she was fired as a result of race, age and gender discrimination.

Melissa Fulton, 63, lost her job in the Mayor's Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Development in February when Stephanie Rawlings-Blake became mayor, after Sheila Dixon's resignation as part of a plea deal in her criminal case.

Fulton, who says she was the only white employee in a four-person office, contends that she was fired despite having a satisfactory record and no disciplinary issues, while a younger black male counterpart was retained even though he had been disciplined, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said that he could not comment on the complaint because it is a matter of pending litigation.

Many employees who serve at the will of the mayor were terminated throughout City Hall during the February transition. Rawlings-Blake vowed to cut her office by 10 percent, and several Cabinet members and department heads were fired or resigned shortly after she left office.

Fulton also filed a federal lawsuit in February charging gender discrimination because the same male counterpart was paid nearly $20,000 more despite being hired at the same time with the same title and responsibilities.

Fulton was hired as a senior development manager shortly after Dixon was sworn in as mayor in 2007. The office is responsible for spurring the growth of businesses owned by women and minorities and increasing the number of city contracts awarded to those businesses.

Fulton has an unrelated pending lawsuit involving a chain of tourist shops she previously owned at BWI-Marshall airport.

Arnold Jolivet, managing director of the Maryland Minority Contractors' Association, wrote a letter to city officials asking them to reconsider their decision to terminate Fulton.

"As one who has personally seen and experienced the humiliation and great destructiveness of racial discrimination, in all of its manifestations, I am compelled to stand-up and speak-out against Ms. Fulton's termination," wrote Jolivet, describing Fulton as a "excellent employee."

A spokeswoman for the EEOC said that she could not discuss individual cases, but that if investigators determine it is likely that discrimination occurred, federal charges could be filed.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

twitter.com/juliemore

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