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FEB 17 - FEB 24, 2015

County Will Fight Discrimination Claims by Female Prosecutor

By Tony Farina

February 17, 2015

Good place for women to work? Two of Niagara County District Attorney Michael Violante's top three deputies are women; lady lawyers take home six of the top 10 salaries in Violante's office, and 10 of Violante's 19-full time prosecutors are female..

As we first reported last September, complaints of discrimination in pay and work conditions by a Niagara County female prosecutor against the district attorney's office under DA Michael Violante will be going to federal court.

But County Attorney Claude Joerg continues to deny the complaints filed by Elizabeth Donatello and said the county will vigorously defend her claims in federal court, using outside counsel.

"I think she's still working and still getting paid more than $76,000 a year," said Joerg, "and I think that's less than two women who are working in the office at a higher grade. Her claim of discrimination in pay just isn't there."

Last September, in denying Donatello's claim as without merit, Joerg said the county would defend against any legal action brought in the matter and he said over the weekend that nothing has changed in the county's position.

At that time, Joerg had stated that the $30,000 disparity in pay between Donatello and Richard Zucco, another prosecutor in the Special Victims Unit, "is in no way gender related," suggesting it had more to do with longevity and a county pay freeze."

District Attorney Violante praised Donatello in an interview with the Niagara Falls Reporter last September during which he also defended his office against any claims of discrimination based on sex, saying he was proud of the contributions made by the women in his office, noting that two of his top three deputies are women. In that same interview, he denied any claims of sexual harassment or harboring a hostile work environment for women.

Attorney Andrew Fleming, who represents Donatello, claimed in a letter to the DA at the time that "women are treated differently in that office than men," saying Donatello had been a victim and that her complaints had fallen on deaf ears.

Fleming could not be reached on Monday, but he had predicted in our story on Sept. 10 of 2013 that after a stop at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a green light from that agency, he expected the matter to wind up in federal court. That's exactly what happened.

Donatello is seeking "back pay, front pay, and compensatory damages," and is demanding a jury trial, according to published reports. The case is expected to be referred to mediation prior to going to trial to see if the two sides can agree on a settlement.


Elizabeth Donatello is suing Niagara County saying her boss, DA Michael Violante discriminated against her because she is a woman.






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Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina