Manager sues Ohio's Lottery Commission for discrimination

Giavonna Evans, an Ohio Lottery Commission employee once responsible for online games, is suing the Lottery alleging that it discriminated against her because of her gender and race as to equal pay and promotions. Further alleged is that the Lottery retaliated against Evans when she opposed the Lottery's discriminatory employment practices.

After gaining management experience in other jobs, Giavonna Evans joined the Ohio Lottery in 2009. The complaint alleges that when two positions opened up in the Office of Product Development in May 2012, the Lottery filled both positions by informally transferring Evans with the express understanding that - should she perform well and receive her supervisor's recommendation - she would be formally promoted to the position.

The complaint alleges that this is the Lottery's standard and established practice for promoting employees from within.

The Complaint further alleges as follows:

  • Upon transfer, Evans performed the duties of the Online Product Manager, but without matching title or pay. Evans's predecessor in the position had been paid $82,000 annually, and his assistant was paid $59,000 annually, totaling $141,000. But Evans performed the duties of both men - without an assistant - for only $36,000 per year.
  • After six months of observing Evans perform the Online Product Manager duties, Evans' direct supervisor, Deputy Director Gwendolyn Penn, completed a glowing evaluation of Evans's performance. Penn rated Evans as “EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS” in every category and described her as “the right person for the Online Product Manager's job.” The evaluation concluded that “an outsider would believe she's always been the manager.”
  • When deliberating on Evans's promotion, Lottery Director Dennis Berg and Deputy Director for Human Resources Elizabeth Popadiuk ignored the positive performance evaluation. Instead, Director Berg scoffed at the notion that Evans - an African-­American female - should be paid the same as her white, male predecessor, saying, “that's too much money for her.”
  • But when it came to promoting and paying white males, the Lottery was much more generous. For example, Director Berg told Lottery management employees that he was promoting white male Edward Slyman because he was “a family man.”
  • After performing Online Product Manager duties for more than a year without appropriate title or pay, Evans filed a grievance through her union. An arbitrator found that Evans had been performing duties consistent with the Online Product Manager job classification. After the arbitration ruling, the Lottery stripped Ms. Evans of all of her management duties, relegating her to clerical drudgery.
  • When Evans filed a discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the Lottery retaliated against Evans by, among other things, refusing to restore her duties; cutting her out of communications; working around her through Intralot, an outside vendor; withholding her glowing performance evaluation in response to a public-­--records request; and persisting in its refusal to make the Online Product Manager position formally available. The Lottery's retaliatory tactics spread to other Lottery employees who supported Evans, including Deputy Director Penn. Penn, Evans's supervisor and mentor and the Lottery's only African-­--American management employee, was stripped of her responsibilities and forced to report to another deputy director after Penn sided with Evans.
  • With no economic or business justification for its discriminatory practices, the Lottery pays and promotes African-­--American women on less favorable standards than other employees.

Subodh Chandra, Evans's lead counsel, said, “The Ohio Lottery's treatment of Giavonna Evans is not only reprehensible; it's illegal. Because the Lottery viewed paying Ms. Evans what it paid a white male to do the same job as ‘too much money for her,' the Lottery's discrimination both has cost her terribly. The retaliation that Ms. Evans—and also Deputy Director Penn—have endured is a travesty. That the Lottery is a public institution only compounds the shame.”

The suit, captioned Evans v. Ohio Lottery Commission, Case No. 1:15-­--cv-­--00164 was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and is assigned to Judge Dan Aaron Polster. Chandra and Ashlie Case Sletvold of The Chandra Law Firm, LLC,, represent Giavonna Evans.

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