A former employee of the Vermont office of AARP is suing the company and its state director, Gregory Marchildon, alleging gender discrimination and breach of contract.
Philene Taormina, 57, of Burlington, filed the lawsuit earlier this month in Chittenden County Superior civil court. She worked for 20 years as the associate director of advocacy for AARP of Vermont before she was terminated last August, according to the filing.
AARP of Vermont is an advocacy group that works primarily on behalf of older Vermonters. It also regularly engages with lawmakers at the Statehouse on policy reform.
In response to the lawsuit, Colby Nelson, a spokesman for AARP, said the nonprofit organization wouldn’t comment on “pending legal matters.” Marchildon did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
“The complaint speaks for itself,” Taormina said in an emailed statement. “I am exercising my rights under Vermont law, as any woman who finds herself in this situation should do. Discrimination in the workplace, of all kinds, must stop.”
Marchildon was Taormina’s supervisor for 18 years as director of the AARP Vermont office in Burlington. During that time, Taormina alleges in the lawsuit that Marchildon “treated her disrespectfully. He would often get angry with her and be dismissive if she didn’t agree with him. He excluded her from meetings and discussions, even if he was directing her to do the work being discussed.”
She goes on to say that Marchildon discriminated against her because of her gender by taking credit at AARP’s national office for advocacy wins without crediting Taormina’s role, and that Marchildon regularly gave credit for Taormina’s work to a male attorney and friend of Marchildon’s.
“This is a classic case of gender discrimination,” the lawsuit reads. “Wherein an employer allows males to have the female employee perform the work and then provides credit to a male individual to whom he has a bond.”
Taormina, whose position included a lobbying role at the Statehouse, reported these issues to AARP, but according to the suit, the company did not take action. She alleges that this allowed “retaliation by Mr. Marchildon and increased both the impact and injury that Plaintiff suffered.”
According to the lawsuit, the alleged harassment caused health problems including post-traumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder, depressive mood and severe anxiety disorder, leading Taormina to go on medical leave.
The lawsuit notes that she requested accommodations to return to work, but these requests are not described in the suit. Her requests were denied and she was eventually terminated “as a direct result of her disability created by Defendants,” the suit reads.
The lawsuit, filed on March 10, is seeking unspecified damages.
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