Pharmacist files suit; alleges age, sex discrimination

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BRATTLEBORO — A pharmacist is suing a local pharmacy, alleging she was discriminated against due to her sex and her age.

According to documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, Patricia Smith, a Springfield resident, worked 32 to 40 hours a week at Brattleboro Pharmacy on Canal Street. John L. Franco, an employment attorney from Burlington, is representing Smith.

Franco noted his client had been employed at the pharmacy starting in April 2014. In November 2017, she was told she was being demoted to a part-time, per diem basis and would be scheduled in a manner that best fits the needs of the business.

Shortly after her "demotion," Brattleboro Pharmacy hired a new male pharmacist who is "substantially younger" than the 60-year-old Smith. According to the filing, Smith was the only full-time pharmacist who was a woman.

In the filing, the pharmacy is listed as Montpelier Pharmacy, doing business as Brattleboro Pharmacy, which opened in 2010 in Brattleboro.

"Montpelier Pharmacy demoted the plaintiff without following the progressive discipline procedure provided in its Employee Handbook," wrote Franco. "No per diem shifts were offered in January and only two were offered in February of 2018."

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The demotion without "progressive discipline" is an "adverse employment action" that suggests age and sex discrimination, wrote Franco, which he said is a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act.

Smith is seeking restitution and damages as well as litigation costs and attorney fees.

In the response filed in defense of Montpelier Pharmacy, Kerin E. Stackpole, of Paul Frank and Collins in Burlington, wrote that the pharmacy did not employ Smith at 32 to 40 hours a week and never classified her as a full-time employee, though she was the only female pharmacist on staff.

However, wrote Stackpole, Smith was never demoted. "[Smith] had been working part-time for another pharmacy and requested to not work Mondays so that she could work at the other pharmacy on Mondays. Upon learning that she would be receiving part-time/per diem hours, [Smith] thanked [the pharmacy] for the scheduling arrangements, stating that '[i]t is very fortuitous timing for me. It will grant me the time I need to prosper my business. The Perdiem [sic] hours will work perfect' and '[t]hank you so much for offering me a perfect solution.'"

Stackpole also confirmed that Montpelier Pharmacy hired a pharmacist that was younger than Smith, but not to fill her position.

With the complaint and the response filed, the next step is for the court to appoint an evaluator to determine if the case can be settled without further legal filings.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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