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Former Chesterfield official wins appeal on discrimination claim

A Friday opinion from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revives the gender discrimination claim of a former Chesterfield County human resources director.

Karla Gerner sued the county for $1.1 million contending her severance package was meager compared to “sweetheart deals” offered to similarly situated male counterparts. Richmond federal Judge Henry Hudson dismissed the case a year ago, finding Gerner’s contract did not entitle her to severance benefits.

The decision by the appeals court sends the case back to Hudson for pretrial proceedings.

Gerner’s attorney calls it a groundbreaking case in the law of severance deals.  “It is the first clear statement by a federal court of appeals that Title VII protects against discrimination in the offering of severance benefits, regardless of whether they are contractually owed, offered voluntarily, or otherwise,” said  Mark D. Dix of Chesterfield.

“It is also this appeals court’s first unequivocal enunciation that Title VII protects former employees against disparate treatment discrimination,” Dix said in a release.

Gerner was fired in 2009 after 26 years of service with the county.

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