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Former clerk in Lycoming County DA office alleges discrimination, retaliation

PHOTO LYCOMING COUNTY.ORG

A Lycoming County woman of Asian descent said while working at District Attorney Ryan Gardner’s office that she was subjected to racial slurs by a co-worker, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in early 2020, a federal lawsuit in U.S. Middle District Court alleges.

Ruth Charles, a former clerk, filed civil action naming District Attorney Ryan Gardner, who fired her for insubordination due to not working on an assignment involving an assistant district attorney, and Lisa DiMassimo, clerical supervisor, in her suit, which highlights what she contends to have been a pattern of discrimination, retaliation and a hostile workplace. The lawsuit additionally names Lycoming County as a defendant.

A spokesman said Gardner was not

available for comment.

Charles claimed she was discriminated against on the basis of her race and was retaliated against when she complained to her superiors.

One of the co-workers not named in the suit allegedly said that she “can’t stand” Asians or Asian-Americans, using a racial slur as she stared directly at Charles.

DiMassimo allegedly told Charles the matter would be added to the co-worker’s file, that she would speak to human resources and had notified Gardner of the incident, according to the suit.

Gardner discussed with Charles her conversation with the assistant district attorney and then allegedly accused Charles of perpetrating “the worse case of insubordination [that he had] ever seen in 30 years of being an attorney.”

Gardner further accused Charles of complaining about having to come into the office, which Charles denied, the suit said.

As Charles tried to answer Gardner’s accusations, DiMassimo allegedly began yelling at her and refused to let her finish her explanation and Gardner allegedly informed Charles that she was “insubordinate” and that it was “grounds for termination,” ordered her to hand in her office key and badge and had her escorted out of the office by the head of the probation department, according to the suit.

Charles, through her attorney, has requested a jury before chief Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann.

Brann recently scheduled a telephone conference with the legal parties.

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