Originally created 07/20/00

Lawsuits dismissed by judge



COLUMBIA - A federal court judge has dismissed two discrimination lawsuits filed by female meter readers who were employed by the city of North Augusta.

U.S. District Court Judge Cameron McGowan Currie found no merit in the suits filed by Susan Ray Crider and Beverly D. Stewart, who each claimed their supervisor treated them differently because they were women.

Ms. Stewart had claimed that a North Augusta public utilities superintendent demoted her to a meter reader II position in October 1997 despite a clean performance record and 11 years as meter reader I. The superintendent said the position change was to train new individuals for the meter reader I position, the suit claimed.

The men who were trained requested to be transferred to other positions, and their requests were granted; her request to be transferred back to meter reader I was denied, Ms. Stewart claimed in her original lawsuit.

Judge Currie rejected the discrimination claim, saying in a court order that Ms. Stewart "introduced no evidence that there had been discrimination rising to an ultimate employment status-level action." The judge also agreed with an earlier judge's finding that her job situation "was not so intolerable as to rise to the level" necessary for her to leave the job.

Ms. Crider had made similar claims in her suit, saying she and Ms. Stewart were the only two female employees in the public utilities department. The judge noted that in his order.

"Both women .ƒ.ƒ. have claimed that they were treated differently from the male employees in several ways, such as alleged heightened scrutiny of their work, increased criticism and assignment of more difficult tasks," Judge Currie wrote.

Ms. Crider said she complained to other supervisors that she felt she was being treated unfairly, but the situation didn't improve. She claimed the superintendent found out about her complaints and threatened to fire her if she spoke badly about him again.

Judge Currie rejected her suit, saying the evidence might be appropriate in a lawsuit for retaliation but not for her discrimination lawsuit, because "Plaintiff is not claiming any male employee who complained to city administration was treated differently."

In dismissing the suits, Judge Currie upheld an earlier ruling by Magistrate Judge Joseph McCrorey that granted a request by the city of North Augusta for summary judgment.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.