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Dunedin public works employee accuses city of favoring younger women in agency

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Dunedin is coming under fire after an ex-employee says she faced discrimination when applying for a field position because she is an older woman.

Lisa Massarelli

On Dec. 6, Palm Harbor resident Lisa Massarelli, 53, filed a suit against the City of Dunedin for violating the Florida Civil Rights Act.

Massarelli worked for the city from 1993 to 2010 before budget cuts forced her to be laid off. For over 12 years, Massarelli worked as a Field Service Representative for the Public Works Water Department. She had no disciplinary issues while working for the city.

She was notified that her old position recently opened back up when the employee working the position retired. Massarelli had previously made it clear to human resources and management that she would be interested in the position, had it ever opened.

Paul Stanek, the director of Assistant Public Works and Utilities, knew of Massarelli’s interest.

Stanek made his way to his current position in 2007 and has since given the impression that he would like to hire young females for office positions and males for field positions.

The suit claims that Stanek planned to promote one of his male “buddies” to the position because he did not want a 53-year-old woman in a field position.

Massarelli found out about the job through connections she made when she worked for the city. Stanek asked HR to keep the opening private so that only current city employees could see it was available. He also requested the listing to be posted for only three days. His plan was questioned by an HR representative. However, he pushed for it to only be posted internally.

Massarelli delivered a complete application to the HR department via UPS to receive a delivery confirmation. She believed that the Stanek’s purpose of posting the opening internally was “to limit the applicant pool to his own buddies.”

Legal representatives of Massarelli inquired about the legitimacy of Stanek’s demands. They were informed there were no requirements for the position to be available to the public. The suit begs to differ. It states that HR is required to monitor selective requests for misconduct. It further states that Stanek’s demand was improper because it was made to discriminate based on age and gender.

Stanek eventually backed away from hiring his friend and went with a 35-year-old female current city worker. He made this decision after the inquiries were made by Massarelli’s representatives.

Massarelli claims she is far more qualified than any of the other applicants.

The woman eventually hired for the position had, allegedly, never gained experience relevant to her new job. Her only government experience was in billing. This newly promoted woman had previously been reprimanded for constantly being late for work. A background check by Massarelli’s lawyers discovered a DUI on her record. This is problematic since the field position requires employees to drive city trucks.

Records suggest other older women may have also been discriminated against by the City of Dunedin.

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