City faces second discrimination lawsuit

Published 6:52 pm Monday, February 1, 2021

The city’s chief financial officer has filed a lawsuit against the city of Danville, Earl Coffey and Randy Boyd, claiming that they had “engaged in acts of oppression, fraud, harassment and malice.”

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday, Jan. 28, the same day that another suit against the city was filed as being settled out of court by city employee Joyce Collins, according to courthouse records.

The lawsuit filed by Michele Gosser states that she was, “subjected to severe discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender and disability” by city manager Earl Coffey and city human resource manager Randy Boyd.

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In the lawsuit, Gosser claims:
• She was denied accommodations to alleviate her asthma, despite her requests, which caused “undo stress and anxiety,” due to Coffey and Boyd “refusing to take her severe asthma seriously.”

• Coffey and another city employee threatened to harm her service animal then said they were “only teasing.” According to the document, “Coffey has repeatedly said, “You need to put a bell on her, else I’ll step on her.” Gosser’s service animal is an 8-pound dog, and she claims it would be hard to miss. “The plaintiff was too afraid to report these threatening statements, as they were made by her direct supervisor.”

• Gosser was involved in “repeated discussions of how expensive her medications are for the city, and questioning the necessity of such medications.”

• Gosser claims Boyd had called her physicians to questions them about the seriousness of her illness and repeatedly asked for private information about her health.

• She was sent a discipline action the night before she departed on vacation, despite the alleged instance happening several months earlier, which caused her “undo stress and anxiety.”

• Gosser claims that her disability was discussed during a discipline meeting; and Coffey and Boyd told her not to talk to the city commission about raises or back pay and they are not discussing finance matters with her now, “therefore interfering with her job duties as chief financial officer.”

• Gosser alleges that Coffey told her, “‘We almost didn’t hire you’ and implied ‘there was a cute young girl’ he or other parties wished to hire instead.” Gosser said she previously reported the incident to a special investigator involved with Joyce Collins’ lawsuit in 2019 against the city and Mayor Mike Perros.

• The document alleges that Gosser wasn’t allowed to work from home during the pandemic even though other managers were allowed to do so. When she was permitted to work from home she was made to use her sick time.

• Only when Gosser was forced to file a worker’s compensation claim, because of her third emergency room visit, did anyone from Danville “offer any alleviating actions for plaintiff’s health.”

The lawsuit states Gosser “has incurred damages for embarrassment, humiliation, physical pain and suffering, emotional pain and suffering and damages to her professional reputation…” and has “been forced to work in a hostile environment with a city manager and human resources director that ignore, belittle, harass and traumatize,” her.

The document asks for a judgment against Danville, Coffey and Boyd and for punitive damages.

On Monday, Perros said, “I do not comment on pending litigation.” He added that the city’s settlement agreement with Collins also, “Does not allow any comment.”