Paine faces two EEOC charges

Two former Paine College employees are filing federal discrimination complaints against the school, alleging retaliation and age discrimination as factors in their terminations this year, according to their attorney.

Marshalita Peterson, 53, and Ellen King, 60, stated they were fired in January so Paine President George C. Bradley could hire younger employees for their positions.

Peterson's claim, which attorney Mark D. Schwartz, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., said he filed Tuesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, states that she was fired two weeks after she submitted a grievance against Bradley with the Paine human resources office for yelling at her in meetings.

Schwartz, who also is representing King, said he believes an EEOC investigation will reveal unjust firing practices at the college.

"These are wrongful-discharge cases," Schwartz said. "The game is, they want to see if these two ladies will go away. They are banking on the fact my two clients will stay home, cry and do nothing. Even if they are like that, I am not."

Brandon Brown, Paine's vice president of institutional advancement, said Tuesday that he was aware of the EEOC complaints, but he would not comment.

"In order to make sure that we do our due diligence, we don't discuss those matters," Brown said.

The EEOC charge document says Peterson, the interim vice president of academic affairs, was fired Jan. 11.

Peterson had filed a grievance with Paine on Dec. 27 citing three instances since October in which Bradley either yelled at her in front of others or engaged in abusive behavior.

On Oct. 24, Bradley said he would take money from Peterson's check the next time she recommended salary increases for fellow employees, according to her grievance with human resources, which Schwartz provided to The Augusta Chronicle . During a Nov. 30 meeting with the Paine College Administrative Council, Peterson stated Bradley directed a statement to her in a "harsh/demeaning tone," according to her grievance.

In a letter dated Dec. 13, Bradley reprimanded Peterson for not being able to provide the number of students who had completed the preregistration process during that Nov. 30 meeting.

"Your failure to come to the meeting prepared to lead this discussion is unacceptable as a senior member of the cabinet," Bradley wrote.

Like Peterson, King stated Bradley discriminated against her age when he fired the 20-year employee Jan. 4.

In her EEOC complaint questionnaire, King stated she was summoned out of a meeting and given a termination letter with no explanation except that she was "not a good fit for the position at the college."

"I was terminated impromptu without notifications or grounds for termination, therefore, my retirement was blocked," King wrote.

Schwartz said the firings are examples of Paine's unfair termination and hiring practices.

He said that he is still waiting for a response from the college and that it is the responsibility of Paine's Board of Trustees to respond to the issue.

"I think there's an illegal atmosphere there," Schwartz said of Paine. "I would hope the board would show some merit to people who were respected leaders of the school ... and react to the situation."

Recent Paine personnel events

- Dec. 19: Resident Director of Dorms Christopher Blue returned to his dorm to find he had been terminated and Paine College officials had requested his belongings be thrown outside his residence. Two $13,000 watches and other belongings were stolen, according to a police report.

- Dec. 21: Paine athletic director and men's basketball coach Ronnie Spry placed on administrative leave.

- Jan. 4: Ellen King, a 20-year Paine employee, is fired. King said her termination letter did not provide a reason.

- Jan. 11: Paine program director Marshalita Peterson, King's immediate supervisor, is fired.

- Jan. 24: Spry resigns with no explanation to the public.

- April 4: A 22-year-old student tells police Paine baseball coach Pete Cardenas French-kissed her as she passed by in a hallway. Cardenas told police he was trying to console the student. Cardenas has been suspended while the school investigates.

-- From staff reports

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