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All caps email leads to lawsuit against Sha’Ron James

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

A 64-year-old former employee of state Insurance Consumer Advocate Sha’Ron James says she was wrongly fired for, among other things, “sending James an email in all capital letters.”

James had told the worker, Camille Rawls, that she “should have known (that’s) ‘the same as yelling at someone in person,’ ” according to a lawsuit Rawls filed in Leon County Circuit Civil court last week.

Rawls, who says she’s the victim of age discrimination under the Florida Civil Rights Act, seeks damages of over $15,000, as well as back and future pay.

Rawls first went to work as a government analyst for the Office of Insurance Consumer Advocate (OICA) in 2007 after working 17 years as an executive assistant for the House of Representatives, her suit says. The Insurance Consumer Advocate reports to Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

At OICA, Rawls said she received “exemplary performance reviews, bonuses and numerous accolades.”

Atwater, first elected in 2010, named James as his Insurance Consumer Advocate in July 2015. Shortly after her joining the office that August, James raised concerns about Rawls’ “professionalism, attention to detail and timeliness,” the suit says.

It didn’t take long for James to find more reasons to let Rawls go, according to the suit.

By September, James had issued Rawls a termination notice, mentioning her taking a week to get James a new “computer monitor and office supplies,” “setting a meeting in the wrong conference room,” and sending the all caps email.

Rawls was eventually replaced “by a younger person,” her suit says.

A complaint in a lawsuit tells one side of a story. Ashley Carr, Atwater’s and James’ spokeswoman, said she could not comment in detail on pending litigation, but added that “the Department finds this complaint to be without merit and plans to vigorously defend itself.”

In an April 2015 profile in the Tallahassee Democrat, James was described as “a ferocious advocate and trusted community leader,” but also as a “self-described textbook introvert.”

More recently, James sat for an interview in February with Trimmel Gomes for his “The Rotunda” podcast (starts around 22:45).

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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