LINCOLN, Neb. (CN) – At 65, Kathleen Graham was the longest serving administrative and executive assistant in the history of the Nebraska governor’s office when her last boss said her position was being eliminated because of budget cuts. However, Graham says in a lawsuit filed late Friday the budgetary excuse offered by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts is both flimsy and in violation of employment law.
In her complaint, Graham says the desk she occupied for 15 years was filled within days after she was fired on Dec. 1, 2016. Furthermore, Graham says she was replaced by a woman in her 20s who received a substantially higher salary than what Graham was paid – between $7,000 and $8,000 more – despite Ricketts’ claims of austerity.
“The 20-something-year-old was the only staff person in the governor’s office to receive such a pay increase. Plaintiff’s substantially younger replacement sat at plaintiff’s former desk, parked in plaintiff’s former parking spot and continued to do the same duties previously performed by plaintiff,” Graham says in her complaint, adding that the sole factor in the switch was Graham’s age.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Graham seeks damages for lost wages and benefits, along with reinstatement to her old job, under the Nebraska Age Discrimination in Employment Act and federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The state of Nebraska is the only named defendant.
The lawsuit was filed by Vincent Powers, a Lincoln attorney who was formerly state party chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party.