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By Shawn Raymundo
An age discrimination lawsuit recently filed against the city alleges that San Clemente officials “engaged in an illegal, systemic, and pervasive campaign to drive out the City’s older workers.”
Former city employee Margaret Hamer, who was hired in 2000 as a recreation specialist, claims that City Manager James Makshanoff and Assistant City Manager Erik Sund were behind a push to remove as many as 60 city workers through “discriminatory” practices.
“The City established a pattern of discriminating against and retaliating against older workers,” the lawsuit filed in Orange County’s Superior Court last month states, adding: “This fact is widely known and acknowledged throughout the City of San Clemente.”
Sund told San Clemente Times on Tuesday, Nov. 19, that the city doesn’t comment on personnel matters.
According to the lawsuit, Hamer, who claims to have been awarded numerous commendations and positive recognitions for her work with the city, was allegedly passed up for a promotion to be the city’s provision recreation manager in November 2016 “because of her age.”
After filing a formal report of age discrimination to Heather Lowe, the city’s human resource manager, Hamer charges that the city began to retaliate and discriminate against her. According to the suit, the city never launched a formal investigation to address Hamer’s complaint.
“Because of the ongoing discrimination and retaliation, (Hamer) had no other choice but to resign her employment immediately on October 25, 2018,” the lawsuit states.
Following her resignation from the city, Hamer filed an age discrimination complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which, the lawsuit notes, issued her a Right to Sue.
This past January, Hamer also filed a government claim that was rejected a couple of months later—around the same time she had a filed a claim with the city’s Risk Management Office alleging age discrimination and retaliation. The city’s Finance and Administrative Services subsequently rejected Hamer’s claim, the lawsuit notes.
Hamer’s lawsuit also recalls another instance of alleged age discrimination that occurred prior to her resignation.
In October 2018, the recreation division manager was set to go on maternity leave. Rather than hire an existing employee such has Hamer or “other qualified, but older, employees,” to fill the role, the city told staff during a monthly recreation department meeting that it would instead make an outside hire, according to the lawsuit.
“The clear and undeniable message was that older workers such as (Hamer) had no future with the city even though they had the experience, knowledge and ability to continue to serve people of the City,” the lawsuit states.
Hamer’s complaint also cites her resignation letter, dated Oct. 18, 2018, when she wrote, “I must resign from the job I once loved due to the ongoing discrimination, harassment, and retaliation I have endured by management over the past two to three years.”
According to the lawsuit, the former city employee “has suffered, and continues to suffer, substantial losses in past and future earnings, bonuses, deferred compensation and other employment benefits.”
Hamer is seeking restitution from the city for her lost earnings, as well as for other damages and attorney’s fees, the lawsuit states. The amount of such payment would be “determined according to proof at trial.”
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.