Former state Rep. Gracia Backer's discrimination lawsuit against Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and former state Labor Director Larry Rebman is scheduled to go to a jury trial Sept. 30.
However, late last month — more than a month before that scheduled trial — Backer's attorney, Roger Brown, of Jefferson City, filed a 105-page amended petition telling the court, "now that substantial discovery has taken place," the facts presented in the amended lawsuit "are the basis for (Backer's) claims (and) were acts taken by the Defendants (that) were outrageous, intentional and taken with intent to harm (Backer) and others."
Backer's original lawsuit was filed June 9, 2014.
In the amended version, the lawsuit alleges Backer was fired March 18, 2013, from her job as state Employment Security director in violation of Missouri laws against age and gender discrimination.
Employment Security is a division of the state Labor and Industrial Relations department, often cited as DOLIR.
"When Defendant Governor Nixon took his actions of discharging Plaintiff Backer, he treated Plaintiff Backer in a substantially different and adverse fashion than he treated Rebman, a younger male," Brown wrote in the lawsuit. "Specifically, Nixon outright discharged Plaintiff Backer for no apparent reason and certainly for no legitimate non-discriminatory reason.
"He then transferred at the same time Defendant Rebman into a judicial position at a rate of pay well over $100,000.00 annually, while Backer was discharged with no benefits or being offered any comparable employment."
Brown charged those actions were taken even though Nixon and his governor's office staff were "repeatedly informed of the misconduct by Rebman over a three to four year period and of which such misconduct included prohibitions found in (state law) against workplace discrimination."
Brown accused Rebman of "innumerable instances of malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance," and accused Nixon of taking "no action with regard to ending the job duties of Mr. Rebman as the (Labor department) Director" during Nixon's first term as governor.
Instead, the lawsuit asserts, "Nixon only took the action of transferring Rebman from Director of Labor to a well-paid judicial position" near the beginning of his second term in office, "while at the same time, turning (Backer) out into the street."
Much of the 105-page lawsuit provides details of actions Brown alleges show Rebman's bias against Backer and other older, female department employees, while giving preference to younger, male employees.
Brown charged the department's working environment was so hostile some of the employees "chose not to file discrimination complaints out of fear of retaliation. Their fears were verified and confirmed by the discharge of Plaintiff Backer."
The lawsuit said Backer was fired because she reported the working conditions and Rebman's actions to Nixon's staff.
"What Plaintiff Backer found was that such lines of communication and authority were not for communicating to the Defendant Nixon," Brown wrote in the lawsuit, "but to 'wall off' Defendant Nixon from any knowledge so as to give him 'plausible deniability' of Defendant Rebman's actions as well as other inappropriate actions of any other of Nixon's political appointees."
Still, Brown alleged about 50 pages later in the lawsuit, "Plaintiffs have now learned of a same and similar pattern of conduct of plausible deniability with regard to the discharge of Patricia Kerr from the Department of Public Safety, wherein she too was subjected to a hostile environment based upon her gender and age created by her supervisor, Larry (Kay)."
Kerr, a former state Veterans Ombudsman and veterans outreach officer, was fired Nov. 10, 2009 — with Veterans Commission Director Kay saying the termination was due to budget issues.
After a two-week trial in July, a Cole County jury sided with Kerr's gender and age discrimination complaint and awarded her $1.3 million in actual damages and $1,575,000 in punitive damages for a total of $2.875 million.
The attorney general's office has asked Circuit Judge Jon Beetem for a new trial but has not acted on that motion.
Beetem also is the judge assigned to oversee Backer's trial.
Nixon was not a defendant or a witness in Kerr's trial.
Brown wrote in Backer's lawsuit: "Substantial complaints had been made to the Governor's office and none of those complaints were ever documented or memorialized, in an effort to maintain plausible deniability for Governor Nixon."
Also, Brown argued, the discovery process revealed "no documents of any nature were ever created or maintained by Defendant Nixon or his staff with regard to the multiple complaints regarding Defendant Rebman (or) to the very likelihood that Rebman's activities could potentially jeopardize funding from the Federal government for various agencies of DOLIR, including (Employment Security)."
Backer's three-count lawsuit seeks monetary awards "for all of the economic and non-economic damages she has sustained (including) mental anguish and the general effect on her life," plus "punitive or exemplary damages as required and allowed for under" the state discrimination laws; reinstatement as DES Director, with "all back pay (and) full compensation for all losses sustained by her which will make her whole up to the time of her reinstatement;" an injunction prohibiting Employment Security, DOLIR "and the successors to Rebman from continuing any type of discriminatory conduct against Plaintiff or other DES employees;" and attorneys fees and costs as allowed by law.