A former employee of the Community Violence Intervention Center in Grand Forks has filed a complaint with the North Dakota Department of Labor claiming she was fired due to her age.
Former CVIC employee Tina Valeu also claims she was fired out of retaliation for complaining about discrimination against her based on her age and gender. A labor department spokesperson said the complaint is actively under investigation.
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Jody Hodgson, a member of CVIC's board of directors speaking on behalf of the organization, denied the claims made in Valeu's complaint.
"Certainly the CVIC denies the allegations that have been made against the organization, and certainly wants to respect the individual's right to discuss those or to handle it the way she's choosing to handle it," Hodgson said. "But we certainly don't seek to have a public discussion over what we think are internal administrative and HR issues."
The CVIC has not yet formally responded to the complaint. The deadline for its response is in July.
According to the complaint filed June 2, Valeu began working at CVIC as an executive assistant to CEO Coiya Tompkins in January 2020 and was fired in March 2021.
During that time she claims she was subjected to a "hostile working environment." The complaint claims Valeu was "called disorganized and told (she) needed to be a better leader" and that she "looked disengaged during Zoom meetings." Valeu says that in both instances it was inferred it was because of her age and sex.
The complaint also alleges Tompkins belittled Valeu, at one point saying Valeu "stressed her out because (she) was too old and unable to keep up."
Valeu goes on to claim that in November 2020, she was asked to fire a disabled employee because Tompkins didn't like her. Valeu alleges that she complained about this firing in November and again in February 2021, when she alleges she again complained about the discriminatory firing of another disabled employee.
She says that month, she received a complimentary email from Tompkins, who called Valeu an asset to the organization and said she should have no fear of being fired. Valeu was terminated a month later, in March 2021.
According to the complaint, this is at odds with CVIC's written policy, which requires a written warning of performance deficiencies.
Valeu declined to comment for this story and instead deferred to her lawyer, Tim Lamb of Lamb Law in Grand Forks, who said his ability to comment on the case is limited due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.
He said he expects a federal lawsuit will be filed within a month after the Department of Labor completes its investigation. He said Valeu is hoping for reasonable compensation for her months-long unemployment after she was fired, as well as a solution to what she claims is a hostile work environment within CVIC.
"This is not about the organization," Lamb said. "This is just about the management, and the management style that's happening in that organization, or at least what the evidence is pointing to."