AG office concludes town discrimination investigation

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

August 22, 2013

The Civil Rights Unit of the Public Protection Division of the Vermont Attorney General’s Office has completed its investigation of a discrimination complaint filed against the town last winter.

Michael Powers, civil rights investigator, sent a report to Town Manager Rick McGuire on July 31.

Williston Police Dispatcher Deborah Davis filed a complaint that she had been discriminated against based on her sex, and the town had “retaliated against her when it issued her a warning for taking time off from work to which she was entitled under the Vermont Parental and Family Leave Act,” according to the report.

Powers did not find evidence to substantiate discrimination claims, but did find that the town had, in one instance, “violated the Vermont Parental and Family Leave Act… by reprimanding her for the PFLA-protected leave taken on July 8, 9 and 10, 2010.”

The reprimand was a Jan. 25, 2011 “warning letter” sent by then-chief Roy Nelson criticizing Davis for “various absences and reporting to work late,” according to the report, and included the July dates, for which Davis had a doctor’s note.

In an Aug. 12 response letter to Powers, McGuire wrote, “It was clearly not our intent to include these dates since the letter specifically states that doctor excused absences were not part of Chief Nelson’s review.”

McGuire said the inclusion of the dates was either inadvertent or the doctor’s note had been misfiled. The letter to Powers, correcting the error, would be included in Davis’ personnel file, McGuire wrote.

Davis declined to comment.