A 61-year-old white woman, who says she was wrongfully fired from the Baltimore prosecutors’ office after 25 years on the job, has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit alleging age, race and gender discrimination in the 2010 termination.
Antoinette E. Swiec, of Baltimore, is seeking $400,000 in compensation from the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office on each of two counts, claiming she was fired because the predominantly young, African American division she worked for wanted her out.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court Monday, and was to be served on Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein, though the firing occurred under his predecessor, Patricia C. Jessamy. Bernstein took office in 2011.
Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the state's attorneys' office, declined to comment on the pending litigation "as a matter of policy."
Swiec says she was the office manager of the Firearms Investigation and Violence Enforcement Unit in 2010, supervising a four-person clerical staff that was “exclusively African American and predominantly young,” with all but one person in their 20s. She reported to FIVE division chief Matthew Fraling III, whom she describes as a black male in his 40s.
Swiec claims the staff “had difficulty in conforming to the requirements of a professional workplace” and that Fraling ignored concerns when she raised them. In November 2010, Fraling suggested she swap positions with the clerical supervisor of the Economic Crimes Unit, “where she would supervise a staff that included all white lawyers and support staff of two older black clerical workers and a white investigator,” her complaint states.
Fraling described the arrangement as a “promoting a ‘better mix,’” according to the lawsuit. When she resisted, a personnel liaison also supported the move, telling Swiec to consider it because she would no longer “’have to deal with the youngens.’”
Later that week, she was fired by Deputy State’s Attorneys Haven Kodeck and Cynthia Jones under a pretense, her lawsuit claims, of improperly contacting a judge’s chambers. Swiec’s nephew was serving on a jury and she wanted to meet him for lunch, but didn’t know if her schedule would accommodate it, so she said she called the judge’s chambers on the advice of a prosecutor to see when the trial would break.
The judge also admonished her.
“The circumstances of this alleged termination had no basis and were pretextual,” the lawsuit states, claiming there are no professional rules against such contact and that a prosecutor wouldn’t have suggested it if it were wrong. “The desire of the defendant employer was to satisfy the desires of the [FIVE] staff to see plaintiff removed as their supervisor one way or the other.”
Kodeck and Jones were replaced when Bernstein took office, and Fraling is now in private practice.