Former CCPS director of community relations sues schools for age discrimination

Debra Marlow, former Director of Community Relations and Legislative Liaison for Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS), has filed a lawsuit in United States  Eastern District Court alleging age discrimination by the Superintendent of Schools and the School Board. The suit, filed in January, was considered by United States District Court Judge Robert E. Payne just last week.

According to court documents, Marlow, 60, claims that during her 21 years with Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS), she consistently received excellent evaluations. In April 2008, Marlow, whose salary was $124,000 plus benefits annually, was transferred to the position of Director of Business and Government Relations. Court records state that Tim Bullis, 37, Marlow’s former assistant was promoted to her former position.

In January 2009, Superintendent Dr. Marcus Newsome informed Marlow that her position would be eliminated due to budget cuts, according to the suit. Newsome offered her another position with less pay ($109,250) but Marlow decided to retire. Court documents indicate that Marlow alleges she was “forced to retire at least five years early in order to avoid loss of pay” and retirement benefits.

CCPS attorneys argue that at the time Marlow submitted her intention to retire; her position had yet to be eliminated. The county also contends in court documents that if Marlow had decide to remain employed by CCPS her retirement benefits would have increased for every year she remained employed. Attorneys for the School Board submit Marlow was not forced to retire. She chose to retire before the School Board acted on Dr. Newsome’s recommendation.

Marlow, through court papers, states she was demoted, paid less and forced to take early retirement because of her age. She states that the CCPS had “articulated age-based stereotype preference for younger employees.”

The lawsuit states that Newsome said he prefers the younger Bullis because he was better at “21st Century communication skills.” Marlow maintains that the statement is incorrect, “and is evidence of Newsome’s unlawful age bias in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).”

CCPS states in court documents that “if Marlow suffered any damages by leaving the employment of Chesterfield County School Board, such damages were caused solely by Marlow’s own action.”

A jury trial has been set for November 11, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. before Magistrate Judge Dennis W. Dohnal.

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