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Fired Senate Staffer: Former Bosses Haven't Complied With Judge's Order

Talonya Adams
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Talonya Adams

A fired state Senate staffer is complaining to a federal judge that her former bosses are not complying with his order that she be reinstated.

Judge Douglas Rayes had ordered that Talonya Adams be reinstated no later than Thursday "pursuant to terms negotiated by the parties.'' But Adams, in legal papers filed Friday, said that didn't happen.

Adams said that she and Michael Moberly, the Senate's legal counsel, have exchanged email messages negotiating terms. But she said there is an "impasse'' in regard to key issues, including retroactive seniority, supervision and what is the senate's interpretation of its obligations under the court order.

Moberly, in his own legal filing later in the day, agreed with Adams that efforts to find common agreeable terms to her reinstatement have been unsuccessful.

He now wants Rayes to schedule a conference call or hearing for the judge to "provide direction'' on the issues. Moberly also wants to provide the judge with copies of the emails.

"The Senate believes such a submission will facilitate the court's understanding of the issues upon which the parties have been unable to agree and the reasons therefore,'' he said, including the elements of Rayes' Oct. 17 order on which the Senate says it is relying. And Moberly said the emails also will tell the judge the areas in which both sides agree.

Rayes' order was supposed to signal the end of a lawsuit filed by Adams two years ago after she said she was wrongfully fired.

A jury agreed with her, concluding she was the victim of racial and gender bias. They awarded her $1 million, though Rayes, citing legal caps on such verdicts, reduced that to $300,000 plus an additional approximately $50,000 in lost pay.

Rayes also ordered her reinstated, setting the Thursday deadline.

Senate President Karen Fann said she could not comment while the case is still active.

Adams was hired at the Senate in 2012 as a policy adviser for Democrats, essentially a staffer who helps lawmakers craft and understand legislation.

In her lawsuit, she said she learned in 2015 that male, non-African American counterparts "received substantially higher salaries and salary increases.''

She said while the job responsibilities were supposedly the same she had a "heavier workload and the more challenging committee assignments.'' Adams also said she was the only policy adviser who did not get a raise while she was there.

What resulted in her dismissal was a trip to Seattle to be with her son who was hospitalized due to a medical emergency.

She was told she would have to use annual leave. Adams said she kept in contact with the Senate and even did some duties while in Seattle, only to be told she had been fired for insubordination and abandoning her job.

Jurors agreed with her claim that she was paid less, was discriminated against with respect to the amount of leave she was allowed to take, and was terminated for complaining about discrimination.