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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Iowa Board of Regents has agreed to pay $195,000 to settle an age and gender discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee.
The board reached the settlement earlier this month with Sheila Koppin, of West Des Moines, who worked for the board for 29 years and served as a longtime spokeswoman.
In a lawsuit filed in Polk County in April, Koppin accused the board, state and the board's former executive director, Robert Donley, of paying her less because she's a woman and misleading her about plans to replace her.
Donley announced in January 2015 he planned to reorganize the board's 23-person staff, creating a new senior communications director position, the lawsuit states. As the only communications employee at that time, Koppin was reassured 'she was not losing her job as part of the reorganization.”
Just before Koppin took medical leave on March 11, 2015, the board created an early retirement incentive program and offered it to Koppin. She wasn't sure whether to take it because of Donley's evasiveness about whether she would be considered for the new senior communications position, the suit reports.
On June 15, 2015, the board hired Senior Communications Director Josh Lehman at a starting annual salary of $100,000 - compared to Koppin's $76,000 pay. Koppin's job was cut June 30.
The lawsuit notes the board has created three new positions since letting Koppin go - all filled by men - including an electronic media assistant tasked with performing 'duties Koppin previously performed.”
Koppin, 53 when she was laid off, accused the board of age discrimination. Noting the subsequent hires and pay gap, she's also alleging gender discrimination. She blames Donley for failing to provide honest and complete information about her job in time for her to seek the early retirement incentives.
Koppin had asked the court to award lost pay and benefits and 'reinstate Koppin to her former position or award front pay in lieu of reinstatement.” The settlement, signed Sept. 25 by Koppin and Oct. 2 by Keith Saunders, the board's interim director, says Koppin will receive $129,780 for emotional distress and wages and her attorney, Thomas Foley, will get $65,200.
The University of Iowa, one of three public universities governed by the regents, paid $6.5 million in May to settle gender and sexual orientation discrimination lawsuits brought by Jane Meyer, a former UI athletics administrator, and Tracey Griesbaum, former head field hockey coach.
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