Ex-Freeborn Co. employee sues over bias
Published 10:02 am Thursday, December 1, 2011
A former Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center supervisor is alleging she was fired as a result of retaliation or age and gender bias.
Rose Olmsted, 60, who had worked for Freeborn County for 38 years, sued the county Monday for “discrimination and reprisal.”
In her suit, Olmsted alleges that the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners and her manager, Department of Human Services Director Brian Buhmann, used the state government shutdown this past summer to terminate her employment.
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She also alleges that Buhmann did not value the contributions of strong women in the department and alleges he attempted in part to justify Olmsted’s dismissal based on her salary level and tenure, both of which were traceable to her age, according to her lawyer, Lawrence Schaefer of Minneapolis.
Olmsted, who supervised the Crime Victims Crisis Center, also oversaw the Domestic Abuse Prevention Program and spearheaded the Freeborn County Crisis Response Team.
The Crisis Response Team is trained to support people who have been affected by hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods, vehicle crashes and shootings.
She was laid off during the shutdown in June but was terminated in October. She was the only non-union employee within the small department.
County officials have stated Olmsted’s position, which carried with it a salary of about $75,000 plus benefits, was cut as the county faces budget cuts.
They said the services the crisis center provides were deemed not mandatory, suggesting it could be handled in the nonprofit realm, though they admitted it is likely other county programs would feel additional strain if the center’s programs were eliminated.
Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever said Tuesday afternoon he had not yet been notified of Olmsted’s suit, but he and other officials were anticipating some action in December.
He declined to comment on any specifics without having seen the documentation, but noted that a lawyer through the Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust will represent the county.
Schaefer, of the Schaefer Law Firm of Minneapolis, argued that if finances truly motivated county officials, Olmsted would have been more than willing to discuss a transition into retirement that would have involved reduced duties and pay.
“This would have ensured that the most needy citizens of the county continued to benefit from her tireless advocacy, experience and management of the volunteer workforce,” Schaefer said.
He said Buhmann had clear motivation to retaliate against Olmsted and often expressed disdain for the services Olmsted was in charge of.
In the spring of 2011, Olmsted was required to participate in a consultation about staff morale and Buhmann’s management practices conducted at the county’s expense. In the consultation, Olmsted reported concerns about Buhmann’s management and his disdain for her, her volunteers and the crisis services.
Schaefer said Buhmann found out about the complaints and from that point forward was “overtly hostile” to Olmsted.
Kluever said he has tentatively scheduled a Dec. 20 closed session with the Freeborn County commissioners to discuss the allegations.