A former staff attorney at the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission is suing the chairman of the agency, alleging he laid her off because she’s a woman and because of her political stances.
WERC is the state’s dispute-resolution agency for matters involving employment matters.
Paul Kinne, of the Madison-based firm Gingras Cates & Wachs, filed a lawsuit in the Western District of Wisconsin on Wednesday on the behalf of Danielle Carne, a former WERC staff attorney.
Carne, who has been licensed to practice in Wisconsin since 2002, runs her own mediation and arbitration practice: Carne Dispute Resolution. She started at WERC in 2006 and left in 2013 to work for two other state agencies, according to the complaint.
She returned to WERC in 2016. By that time, James Daley had been appointed by Gov. Scott Walker as commissioner of the agency. Daley became the WERC chairman in 2017.
Daley is also an lawyer and has been licensed to practice in Wisconsin since 2003.
In her complaint, Carne alleges that Daley laid her off in 2017 after he had received an email from her complaining that Daley had unfairly decided to remove her from the agency’s list of arbitrators, assigned her disproportionately less cases than her colleagues and assigned her only certain types of cases. Carne said Daley took those steps even though he had received no complaints about her work.
Carne alleges she was laid off because she’s a woman and has left-leaning political stances that were well-known at WERC. She also said Daley’s decision to lay her off came in retaliation for complaining about discrimination.
“This type of behavior is completely unacceptable,” Kinne said in a news release. “GCW does not stand for discriminatory or retaliatory behavior of any kind, and we hope this lawsuit is a step towards making that stop within the workplace.”
Carne seeks compensation both for economic and emotional harm as well as punitive damages.
A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the first name of the lawyer representing Danielle Carne. He is Paul Kinne of Madison-based Gingras Cates & Wachs. The Wisconsin Law Journal regrets the error.Follow @erikastrebel