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Kansas labor secretary filed discrimination case

Published on -10/4/2012, 3:24 PM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas' interim labor secretary filed an age and gender discrimination complaint against a former employer two months before Gov. Sam Brownback brought her into his administration, public records show.

Lana Gordon's complaint against ISS Facility Services Inc. remained open Thursday with the Kansas Human Rights Commission, a state agency that is independent of the Department of Labor that Gordon now leads. Gordon, also a former Kansas House member, filed the complaint in July.

Gordon did not immediately respond to a request for an interview made through her spokeswoman at the department. The company's Topeka office declined to comment on her complaint.

Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said the complaint is "between Lana Gordon and her former employer."

"It has nothing to do with her employment with the state," Jones-Sontag said. "She is doing a great job at the Department of Labor."

In her complaint, Gordon alleges that an unnamed ISS manager in Topeka office verbally abused her over her age and gender for months before she was fired from her job as an account manager in March. Gordon also said in the complaint that she was "never officially given a reason as to why I was terminated."

"I was treated in a demeaning manner and given a difficult time working," Gordon's complaint said, without providing more details.

ISS provides cleaning, landscaping, security and other building support services worldwide.

Gordon began serving as interim labor secretary in September, when Brownback abruptly replaced Karin Brownlee, who said she was asked to leave the governor's Cabinet. Brownback and his aides have not said why, but Brownlee has suggested they disagreed over how well the agency was running, despite the administration touting her efforts to reduce administrative expenses and make the agency more efficient.

The Human Rights Commission would confirm only that Gordon's case is still pending.

When complaints are filed, the commission offers the parties a chance to participate in mediation before a commission staffer decides whether there's probable cause to believe the state's anti-discrimination laws were violated. Even after such a finding, the commission typically attempts to settle cases before there is a public hearing. In its last annual report, the commission said there were no public hearings from July 2010 through June 2011.

In her complaint, Gordon said she worked for ISS from June 2002 until her firing in March 2012. Her complaint alleges that the unnamed manager's verbal abuse began in August 2011. Gordon said in her complaint that starting in February her work was restricted to 20 hours a week.

The complaint adds, "my actions were closely monitored and my work was closely scrutinized."

Gordon's complaint said she was placed on indefinite leave without pay at the end of February and terminated less than two weeks later. The complaint alleges a company official told her it had to let her go because she'd had a discussion with co-workers about the manager.

In her complaint, Gordon, now 62, said younger employees involved in the discussion were not terminated and a younger employee was moved into her former job.

Brownback plans to have Gordon serve as labor secretary until he can find a permanent replacement for Brownlee. Gordon had already decided not to seek re-election to the Legislature when she gave up her House seat to take the Cabinet job.

Gordon was first elected to the House in 2000, and she most recently served on its budget-writing Appropriations Committee and as chairwoman of a budget subcommittee on education spending. But when the state's political boundaries were redrawn this year, she found herself in a district with two other incumbent lawmakers.

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Online:

Kansas Department of Labor: http://www.dol.ks.gov/

Kansas Human Rights Commission: http://www.khrc.net/

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna

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