(CN) – A city office clerk who had an affair with the mayor of Valley Park, Mo., won a second shot at proving that her firing was discriminatory. The Missouri Court of Appeals reversed a ruling for the city, saying the clerk offered enough evidence of bias to proceed in court.
Roxanne Ruppel sued Valley Park under the Missouri Human Rights Act, claiming she lost her job due to sex discrimination.
Ruppel began a romantic relationship with Mayor Jeffrey Whitteaker in late 2006, though both had spouses at the time.
Marguerite Wilburn, Ruppel’s supervisor and the mayor’s sister, thought the relationship was causing “a lot of turmoil and chaos in the office,” so she blew the whistle on the affair to the mayor’s wife.
Mrs. Whitteaker came to the office and had a shouting match with Ruppel. She also called Ruppel several times at work and left messages on her voice mail.
During a closed session, the town’s alderman recommended firing her as a way of “helping (the mayor) out,” according to Ruppel.
The aldermen eventually decided to cut Ruppel’s benefits and move her from a full-time to a part-time position. They later eliminated the position, citing budgetary reasons, though Wilburn later denied knowledge of any budgetary reason.
The trial court ruled for the city, but the Missouri Court of Appeals reversed in a per-curiam decision.
“The claim survives summary judgment because Ruppel has demonstrated the existence of genuine issues of material fact as to whether her sex was a contributing factor in the city’s decision to terminate her employment,” the judges wrote.