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Published: Tuesday, 6/27/2006

Bus driver contends harassment, bias in suit


WAUSEON - A bus driver for the Fulton County Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities board is asking for $875,000 in a lawsuit against the board and one of its former superintendents who she claims treated her in a discriminatory manner because she is a lesbian.

Angela Dawn Tripp filed the suit against the board and former Superintendent Dan Pfahl in Fulton County Common Pleas Court on Friday.

It is at least the third lawsuit pending against the disabilities board by current or former employees.

Ms. Tripp, who lives in Delta in eastern Fulton County and is openly involved in a homosexual relationship, said in the lawsuit that Mr. Pfahl told her he did not approve of her lifestyle and that it was against his religion. On one occasion, according to the suit, when Ms. Tripp asked to leave work early to attend to her sick daughter, Mr. Pfahl said, "You might as well go, although she's going to turn out just like you anyway."

She also accuses Mr. Pfahl in the lawsuit of:

●Requiring her to pay a mobile phone bill that no other employee was required to pay, even though other employees were given the same phones by the board.

●Giving her adverse reviews in which she was cited for actions that other employees had taken as well, although those employees got better reviews.

●Making it known by inaction that it was OK for other employees to harass or ridicule Ms. Tripp because the superintendent took the same actions.

After she filed a complaint against Mr. Pfahl, she was subject to an increasingly hostile work environment, she said in the suit. On at least two occasions her bus was vandalized with graffiti that said "fag," and photos of her daughter on which the words "future fag" were written were pasted to the exterior.

Retaliation worsened again when Ms. Tripp filed her claims with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, according to the suit, eventually leading her to seek medical and psychological help.

In the suit she alleges five counts: deprivation of constitutional rights and privileges, conspiracy to deprive persons of equal protection of the laws, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and retaliation, and she asks for $75,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages for each count. She demands a jury trial in the suit.

The current disabilities superintendent, Brenda Oyer, could not immediately be reached for comment last night.

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