Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Age lawsuit removed to federal court

Woman alleges discrimination by Sun Valley Co.

Express Staff Writer

    An age discrimination lawsuit filed in Blaine County earlier this year against Sun Valley Co. has been transferred to U.S. District Court in Boise.
    The lawsuit, originally filed in 5th District Court by a former Blaine County resident and Sun Valley Co. employee, Brenda K. Smotherman, alleges that she was denied employment with Sun Valley Co. for the 2013 summer tourist season because the company chose to hire new employees instead. Smotherman was 57 at the time.
    Smotherman is seeking in excess of $25,000 for alleged “wrongful termination.” She is also asking the court for attorney fees and punitive damages.
    Smotherman, who now lives in Ada County, filed her lawsuit in Blaine County 5th District Court on July 2. She alleges in her complaint that Sun Valley Co. violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Idaho Human Rights Act. Both laws prohibit age discrimination in employment.

Smotherman is seeking in excess of $25,000 for alleged “wrongful termination.” She is also asking the court for attorney fees and punitive damages.

    Sun Valley Co. filed for removal of the case to federal court on Sept. 19, citing federal code that allows removal of civil actions to federal jurisdiction if a court claim arises where a question of federal law is involved.
    The case is now assigned to federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who has set a telephonic scheduling conference for Oct. 22.
    Smotherman is represented by attorney Kimberly L. Williams, of the Rossman Law Group in Boise, and Sun Valley Co. is represented by attorney Steven C. Bednar, of Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar in Salt Lake City.
    Smotherman states in her complaint that she was first employed by Sun Valley Co. as a full-time seasonal employee in August of 2010. As such, she received benefits and was provided housing in a Sun Valley Co. dormitory. She stated that she worked the winter seasons at Warm Springs Lodge and the summer seasons at the Sun Valley Club golf facility.
    Smotherman claims that she was promised employment in 2012 for the 2013 summer season but in April of 2013 was told by an employment official that “because there are so many employees, there was no room” for her for 2013. She wrote that she was later informed by a company human resources manager that the company “intended to hire new people through a job fair.”
    According to the complaint, Smotherman’s “job performance was good and she never received any reprimands.” She alleges that her termination was based solely on her age.
    Sun Valley Co. had not yet filed a response in court to Smotherman’s complaint. A company spokesman did not return a call for comment to the Idaho Mountain Express by press deadline on Tuesday.

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