Cortez Quinn

Former Twin Rivers employee files $3 million claim against district

Published: Friday, Apr. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Saturday, Apr. 13, 2013 - 7:29 pm

Sherilene Chycoski, who worked for Twin Rivers Unified School District as the visual and performing arts director, is seeking $3 million from the district for alleged discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

The claim, filed with the district Monday, said Twin Rivers officials "abruptly" withdrew approval of an extension of Chycoski's work visa, breaching her contract and requiring her to leave the country with little notice.

It says interim Superintendent Joe Williams, Assistant Superintendent Gloria Hernandez, Associate Superintendent Patty Smart and Assistant Superintendent Tom Janis discriminated, harassed and retaliated against her while she was employed with the district.

The district can't comment on litigation, said Zenobia Gerald, district spokeswoman.

Chycoski also has filed a paternity suit and a civil lawsuit against school board President Cortez Quinn.

The civil suit claims breach of contract and fraud. It says Quinn failed to repay $52,000 Chycoski lent him between December 2010 and April 2011. She gave him the money in cashier's checks, cash transfers and through cash advances and purchases on her credit card, according to the suit.

In response to the civil suit, Quinn denied Chycoski's claims in court documents and asked that it be denied. He did not return a call asking for comment.

The claim against Twin Rivers Unified alleges that district staff told Chycoski on Oct. 24 that they would no longer allow her to work reduced hours – sometimes remotely – to accommodate a medical condition, said attorney Lisa Wible Wright.

A doctor had requested special accommodations for Chycoski, who was recovering from a pregnancy and was under a great deal of stress in the workplace, Wright said Thursday.

The district made allowances for Chycoski's medical needs for several months, Wright said, but they weren't sufficient.

Requests for accommodations were met with "retaliation rather than assistance," Chycoski said in the claim.

The arts director said her troubles at the district began in June 2011.

"I was subjected to a hostile work environment and was discriminated and retaliated against," she said in her complaint.

Wright said the stress included a conflict with another woman that resulted in district officials attempting to "create a buffer between the two of them." This restricted how Chycoski could move around the district office, the attorney said.

"When Ms. Chycoski asked that the district take steps to protect her from unreasonable contact with that woman, they didn't respond to her," Wright said. "… My view is they were not evenhanded in the way they solved that problem."

Wright said her client had no indication that the district employees would pull support for her work visa until the day before it was set to expire. Chycoski, who owns a house in the area, had to pack up and leave the country within five days, Wright said.

"I consider that to be a termination and a breach (of her work contract)," she said.

Chycoski is seeking wages and benefits for the term of the contract as well as compensation for future wage and benefit losses, physical and emotional distress, loss of reputation, travel expenses, medical expenses, legal expenses and educational expenses.

Call The Bee's Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Read her Report Card blog at http://blogs.sacbee.com/report-card/.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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