In the case of three workers fired from Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation Council, council Director Virginia McInerney has been nothing but consistent: consistently tight lipped.
When last we discussed the case (third item here), McInerney had simply denied all allegations of the workers who complained of wrongful discharge, religious discrimination and harassment, retaliation and age discrimination–and said she couldn’t discuss an ongoing case.
Employer-companies to pick up tab
On August 27, the “three former employees of the council–executive assistant Stephanie Irwin and staff attorneys Kim Finley and Shadya Yazback — signed a settlement that will net them a combined $55,102, according to documents filed with the Ohio Court of Claims,” says a report in The Plain Dealer.
The attorney for the trio gets another 15 grand, bringing the total settlement to about $70,000, which according to the Plain Dealer will eventually be borne by Ohio employers. “The money will be paid out of the council’s budget, which is funded by assessments on Ohio employers who pay workers’ compensation premiums, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s office. The council’s overall budget is $650,000 a year.”
Claims: ‘God to permeate the workplace’
McInerney fired the women in February; in March, they wrote letters to council members and, apparently, to legislators “charging that McInerney told her staff that she was sent by God to her job, that she wanted God to permeate the workplace and that Satan was to blame for obstacles the staff encountered in their jobs. She inquired about their religious beliefs, called them to pray aloud, cited Scripture in her reprimands and asked Irwin to listen to CDs of sermons and take notes on them, they said.”
As we posted in March, an AP story from March 3 quoted “a former staff attorney as writing in a letter that ‘It became increasingly clear that the Director was judging employees not on professional performance but on the quality of their faith, according to her beliefs.’ ”
No change in director’s ‘status’
McInerney retains her job and title as agency director–along with its $102,000 salary. However, the agency’s chairman, state Sen. Steve Buehrer, released a less-than-ringing endorsement in his post-settlement assessments. From the Plain Dealer: ” ‘The move to settle in this case averts risk and avoids costly litigation.’ While Buehrer’s statement didn’t address McInerney’s future with the board, the lawmaker relayed through an aide that there is ‘no change in the status of her employment.’ ”
However, another legislator has taken aim at the entire council, which itself was created in reaction to a scandal that cost the state’s worker insurance fund $300 million in losses from questionable investments.
State rep wants to gut council
According to an Aug. 30 post at InsuranceNews.net, “State Rep. Dan Dodd, a member of the council, has questioned whether the council is even necessary. In an April blog entry on his website, Dodd [wrote], ‘In this economy, every dollar matters to employers. That is why the Workers’ Compensation Council needs to have its funding stripped before more money is wasted.’ ”
The Plain Dealer reports that “Dodd also sponsored a bill eliminating funding for the council that has cleared the Ohio House and is sitting in the Senate. Lawmakers are not expected back into regular session until after the November election.”
According the insurance trade site, “McInerney, who worked for the Ohio Legislative Service Commission before being hired as staff director, has taught seminars at Vineyard Church of Columbus and also wrote a book in 2003, “Singles Not Separate: How to Make the Church a Family.” Reportedly, she also has appeared on the 700 Club.
She hired a temp worker after firing executive assistant Stephanie Irwin and staff attorneys Kim Finley and Shadya Yazback and has said she is awaiting hiring instructions following the settlement. Laconic as ever about details of the firings, McInerney declined to comment on that aspect but said of the settlement’s resolution, “I have a 21-year track record of dedicated service and hard work for the general assembly. I stand on a solid record, not only of achievements but also with respect to my conduct.”
The awards are follows: $20,688.81 to staff attorney Finley; $22,051.50 to Yazback and $12,363 to staff assistant Irwin. Their attorney, John S. Marshall, will get $15,000.
Court approval needed; no wrongdoing acceded
After announcement of the settlement–which according to BusinessInsurance.com still requires court approval–Finley said that “obviously, we wouldn’t have brought anything forward that was untrue, but the matter has been resolved and we’re moving on with our careers,” according to the Plain Dealer.
In the agreement, the council characterized the settlement as a compromise, acknowledging no wrongdoing on behalf of the council or the director.
Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources: