Braille Monitor                                                                  June 1985

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Woman Says Human Rights Job Abolished Because She's Blind

Reprinted from the Rochester (Minnesota) Post-Bulletin March 7, 1985

ST. PAUL (AP)--A former information officer for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights has filed a lawsuit alleging that the agency abolished her job because she is blind.

Mary Hartle, who was employed by the agency from March 5, 1979, through January 18, also alleged in the suit filed Wednesday that the agency had retaliated against her because of a union grievance filed on her behalf.

Named as defendants in the suit, filed in Ramsey County District Court, are the department commissioner Linda Johnson and Assistant Commissioner Walter Bar wick.

Johnson's office, in a statement released late Wednesday, said agency officials would not comment on the lawsuit.

"Because the matter is in litigation and an internal grievance procedure, it is appropriate that any response to the allegations in the complaint be made in documents and arguments submitted to the court and to the proper internal grievance authorities," the statement said.

Johnson, whose appointment as commissioner was confirmed last week by the Minnesota Senate, and Barwick also were named in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed February 22 by two female employees of the department.

That lawsuit alleges that the agency officials ignored the women's sexual harassment complaints against civil rights expert Robert L. Green, president of the University of the District of Columbia.

Hartle's lawsuit seeks her reinstatement, a back-pay award, punitive damages and damages for mental pain and suffering.

The National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota is providing technical and financial assistance to Hartle.

"We believe this is an important case," Joyce Scanlan, federation president, said in a news release. "Mary Hartle worked for the department for nearly six years, performed her duties successfully, and then was suddenly removed from her position by new administrators."

Hartle said in an interview that when the agency decided to abolish her job and transfer her duties to a newly created position of assistant to the commissioner, she was offered the option of accepting an entry-level position as an investigator or being laid off. She said the new job was a demotion although the pay was the same, and she was laid off on January 18.

Alberto Quintela, assistant to the commissioner who took over some of Hartle's duties, said the position offered Hartle was comparable to the one she had had. He said he could not be more specific about the job reclassification because employee information is confidential.

The Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, which last week filed a lawsuit against the agency alleging unfair labor practices, filed the grievance on Hartle's behalf last December.

"It is very unfortunate and ironic that Hartle was forced to file this type of lawsuit against the very department that is required by state law to assist individuals in processing complaints of discrimination," MAPE president Michael C. Haney said in a news release.

The governor 's office had no comment on Hartle's lawsuit.