Ocean City Today

Resort denies unfair treatment of ex-employee

Nov 09, 2017

(Nov. 10, 2017) Ocean City government has formally denied in federal court that a former police department employee was treated unfairly after she filed a complaint that alleged she was “bullied and mocked” out of a full-time position.

In a filing in U.S. Circuit Court in Baltimore, attorneys Suzzanne W. Decker and Mary Claire Blythe of Miles & Stockbridge also asked a federal judge to dismiss the complaint with prejudice.

In their petition, Decker and Blythe argued this week that the staff properly investigated Sandra D’Alessandro’s claims that an employee repeatedly harassed her and two African-American coworkers in 2014.

D’Alessandro, who is white, worked as a temporary records technician at the time. She filed lawsuit against the town in September, seeking awards for compensatory damages, including mental anguish, humiliation and lost wages.

D’Alessandro claims that her supervisor was reluctant to take the complaint to the division captain. When the supervisor did, the captain refused to talk to D’Alessandro “now or ever,” according to the complaint.

Decker and Blythe said, however, that the city “investigated and responded to [D’Alessandro’s] complaint … and it suspended and ultimately terminated” the employee she accused.

The city also refuted the idea that the City Council terminated a full-time records position that D’Alessandro was conditionally offered because she took the complaint to Human Resources Director Wayne Evans.

“Ocean City admits that funding for [that position] was eliminated … and the Town (sic) Council funded another full-time position in the Police Department,” Decker and Blythe wrote.

Eventually, D’Alessandro and another woman were interviewed for the position. D’Alessandro, who is diagnosed with dyslexia, claims that she was asked to submit medical documentation before taking a polygraph test, unlike the other candidate.

The city contends this was because the other candidate “did not raise any medical issues to the polygraph examiner as to her ability to withstand the stresses of the polygraph exam.”

Ocean City officials were unaware of D’Alessandro’s dyslexia, according to court documents.

D’Alessandro was ultimately hired for the position, and she filed her first Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint. At that point, D’Alessandro said, her supervisor humiliated her on a daily basis. One day she left work because her supervisor made her “so upset that she was now sick,” and was later suspended.

Decker and Blythe either denied the bullying allegations or that the city had knowledge of them. In the response, the town said D’Alessandro was suspended for insubordination “following an extreme verbal outburst directed at her supervisor.”

The city also denied that the police department told D’Alessandro, who quit in April 2015, that she would be fired if she did not resign.

Ocean City denies all liability in D’Alessandro’s complaint, and did not “intentionally interfere with [her] business relations.” D’Alessando said she has applied to 200 jobs and was never hired, because the city told employers she was a “troublemaker and a liar.”

“Ocean City made good faith disclosures about a former employee’s job performance or the reasons for the termination of employment, when such disclosures were made to prospective employers,” the city’s response said.

The matter now rests with the court.

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