Monday, November 19, 2012

Fired Lions Employee Claims Discrimination

story first appeared on

A former community affairs staffer for the Detroit Lions is suing the company on claims she was passed up for a promotion and later terminated based on her age and gender.

Kimberly Doverspike, 49, of Dearborn, has filed a lawsuit against The Detroit Lions, Inc., alleging her civil rights were violated earlier this year when she was denied a director's position before the company let her go in July. She'd been employed by the Lions for two decades.

The complaint, filed Oct. 31 in Wayne Circuit Court, is seeking a trial and damages exceeding $25,000 on claims of age and gender discrimination under Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights act, which bars employers from discriminating based on factors such as religion, color, age as well as height and weight.

Doverspike's attorney said a jury will want to see exactly why she was terminated and that he'd be presenting all the facts necessary to prove that her gender and/or age were factors in her dismissal.

The Detroit Lions organization, in a written statement Monday, said: "We are aware of the suit brought forth by Mrs. Doverspike. We believe it to be baseless and will vigorously and appropriately defend our position."

The filing says Doverspike was appointed interim director of community affairs in 2011, after the prior director retired.

She held that position for more than a year before the company sought to fill it. But Doverspike contends, despite numerous letters of recommendation from colleagues and outside organizations, she was passed up for the job, which was instead awarded to what she claims was a less qualified, less educated, substantially younger man.

The lawsuit says Doverspike was told "change is hard" and that she'd be entitled to a "transition package" should she decide to quit, after being informed in May that she didn't get the job.

Doverspike did not wish to quit, the lawsuit says, but the company, however "began treating (Doverspike) unfairly, unreasonably, and less favorably than similarly situated younger male employees."

In June, she was denied a raise, while younger male employees were granted one, the complaint alleges. Doverspike — the only female and oldest employee in the community affairs department — was ultimately let go in July in an alleged effort to reduce the department.

Gasiorek said Doverspike's employment file was exemplary before she was replaced as director. Then, within months, he said, she was criticized by superiors, who claimed she didn't fit the company's new focus.

Doverspike started working for the Detroit Lions community relations department as an intern in 1991. During that time, the lawsuit says, she earned a master's degree in sports administration and was hired as a community relations assistant in 1992. She was promoted to assistant director of community affairs in 2000.

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