More than a year and a half after the resignation of a Jessamine County EMT who said she quit her position because of sexual harassment, a decision by the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission has upheld the referee decision that deemed the county correct in denying her unemployment benefits.
The unemployment commission released the decision last week, stating the referee who handled the case for the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Office of Employment and Training made no errors when deciding that Tina Griggs left voluntarily, “without good cause attributable to the employment,” and therefore is not entitled to unemployment.
The ruling was the result of an appeal filed by Griggs after the referee decision, which was handed down in November 2012.
“We are very pleased with the decision,” Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl said. “We think it was the right decision. We took the appropriate steps after the allegations. Ms. Griggs just didn’t take things seriously.”
Griggs’ attorney, Robert Cowan, said the decision basically means Griggs did not suffer “constructive discharge,” which Cowan argued in the appeal. Constructive discharge means work conditions are so bad as to leave no alternative but to quit. The commission found this to not apply in Grigg’s case, meaning she could not quit and receive unemployment.
But the commission’s decision does not mean Griggs was not sexually harassed, Cowan said.
Griggs was a lieutenant with the Jessamine County EMS when she voluntarily resigned in June 2011. She had been with the EMS department on and off since 2002, according to the unemployment commission’s report.
The report states Griggs filed a complaint in April 2011 alleging sexual harassment by EMS director Jerry Domidion, and that he had failed to act on a complaint she made alleging harassment by coworkers.
Domidion was placed on paid administrative leave, and the county hired a human resources attorney to assess the situation.
After the investigation, Domidion was reinstated.
Griggs was unhappy with the decision, and submitted her resignation less than a month after learning of it, the report states.
After leaving the department, Griggs filed a claim for unemployment benefits, alleging misconduct and inappropriate behavior by Domidion. The Jessamine County Fiscal Court denied her unemployment benefits at that time.
Griggs’ claim alleged that Domidion had created a hostile work environment, that he “made remarks of a sexual nature,” and that on at least two occasions he made sexual gestures, among other allegations.
Griggs’ claim states that, though the last incident in which Domidion himself sexually harassed her was in February 2010, Domidion “facilitated and encouraged harassment by other workers,” according to the decision. But the decision states that Griggs did not specify in her complaint the dates and times these incidents occurred, or in what manner they occurred.
In its decision on why Griggs did not have good cause attributable to the employment, the three-person unemployment commission states that Griggs “failed to show, at the time of her separation from the employment, that the conditions of the work were such that an objective, reasonable person would agree that she had no alternative but to quit.”
The commission states further that Griggs’ testimony as to the alleged incidents is not credible, and that she did not file a report or grievance soon after the alleged incidents “defies logic.”
Goettl said the commission’s decision could be appealed with Jessamine Circuit Court, but Cowan said he does not know yet whether Griggs will take the matter further.
No civil suit has been filed in the case, Cowan said.
In a separate but related case in October 2012, Domidion and EMS were cleared after Domidion was accused of purposely withholding transport and aid to EMT Amanda Wood, who supported Griggs in her case against Domidion, after a multi-vehicle wreck in February that sent nine people to the hospital.
That complaint was filed by Wood’s husband, Andrew Wood, who also is represented by Cowan.
State investigator Sam Lowe said he found no fault in Domidion’s procedures at that accident, he told the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services.
Andrew Wood has filed a lawsuit, claiming he too was forced to resign from the department due to a hostile work environment after he supported Griggs’ claims. That lawsuit is pending.