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Home / Practice Areas / Employment Law / City Hall ex-worker settles harassment claims against KC, mayor, mayor’s wife

City Hall ex-worker settles harassment claims against KC, mayor, mayor’s wife

Claimed first lady made graphic comments

A former City Hall employee for the City of Kansas City has reached a $595,000 global settlement of her employment discrimination and retaliation claims against the mayor of Kansas City and his wife. The ex-employee claimed the first lady made sexually and racially harassing comments to her while they both worked in the mayor’s office.

Ruth Bates, a 54-year-old African-American woman, was a campaign supporter of Mark Funkhouser, a Democrat candidate for mayor of Kansas City. Funkhouser, 58, was elected in March 2007.

After the election, Funkhouser hired Bates, who had been a family friend for 15 years, to work in the mayor’s office to oversee appointments to boards and commissions. Funkhouser’s wife, Gloria Squitiro, 49, also served in the mayor’s office, without pay, plaintiffs said.

Bates alleged that Squitiro made sexually harassing and sexually explicit comments to Bates. She also alleged that Squitiro made racist comments to Bates, including calling her “mammy.”

Bates filed a charge of discrimination. She claimed Funkhouser and Squitiro retaliated by refusing to give Bates a promised pay increase, authorizing research into Bates’ finances in the hope of finding negative information, giving Bates a lower salary and removing Bates from her employment in the mayor’s office.

Funkhouser and Squitiro contended that Bates’ statements were untrue, that they never authorized research into Bates’ financial situation, and that they did not pay Bates a lower salary. They claimed that Bates in fact received a pay increase and quit her job with the mayor’s office voluntarily, said Kansas City defense attorney James C. Wirken.

Bates settled her claims against Squitiro for $45,000 in November 2008.

On July 31, days before trial was scheduled to begin, the Kansas City City Council voted to settle Bates’ claims against the city and Funkhouser for $550,000.

“The City Council voted to settle the case because a majority of members believed it was in the best interest of the city to put this case behind it without an extended trial and move forward with city business,” said Saskia Jacobse, assistant city attorney for the city of Kansas City.

– Anne C. Vitale

 

 n  $595,000 settlement

Employment/harassment

n Court: Jackson County Circuit Court

n Case Number/Date: 0816-CV16066/July 31, 2009

n Judge: Ann Mesle

n Special Damages: $4,500 lost wages

n Insurer: Self-insured (for City of Kansas City)

n Caption: Ruth Bates v. City of Kansas City, Mark Funkhouser and Gloria Squitiro

n Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Lynn J. Bratcher, Kristi L. Kingston and Marie L. Gockel, Bratcher Gockel & Kingston, Kansas City

n Defendants’ Attorneys: Galen Beaufort and Saskia Jacobse, City of Kansas City; James C. Wirken, The Wirken Law Group, Kansas City