Saturday, May 05, 2018

Lawyers for former East Middle School nurse to depose Tina Smith in age, disabilities discrimination lawsuit

Tina Smith has not worked for the Joplin R-8 School District for nearly two years, but she still has not been able to totally sever the connection.

Lawyers for a former East Middle School nurse who is suing the district for allegedly discriminating against her because of age and disabilities will depose Smith, the former H. R. director 1 p.m. May 15 at the law offices of Blanchard, Robertson, Mitchell and Carter in Joplin.

According to the petition, which was filed in January 2017, Staci Chodrick was 55 and had served the district for 20 years when former Executive Director of Student Services Mark Barlass fired her on March 3, 2016, as part of district budget cuts. Barlass resigned under pressure in late 2016 following an indiscretion on district property.

At the time, Chodrick was in her first year at East, where she had been transferred after being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. The transfer had taken place as an accommodation for Chodrick, since East had an elevator.

In the petition, Chodrick says she lost her job after Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder was restructuring the district.

"The district was dealing with a significant financial crisis, reflected in significant budget shortfalls. One way in which the district determined to confront the financial crisis was through the termination of employment for more costly administrative and support staff full-time employees."

That affected Chodrick in two ways, according to the lawsuit. Her Parkinson's required more costs to accommodate her and she was at the top level on the pay scale because of her two decades of experience.

Chodrick is asking for actual damages, exemplary damages, and attorney fees on each count.

The lawsuit is one of many that have been filed in recent years against Joplin R-8, which is listed as the only defendant, including lawsuits filed for racial discrimination and sexual harassment.

Chodrick is represented by Webb City attorney John Scott Dolence.

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