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ELC District settles with former employee

By Staff | Aug 13, 2017

Monday, Aug. 7, a lawsuit against the Estherville Lincoln Central School District, and Superintendent Tara Paul and Demoney Principal Shane Kalous individually, was dismissed. The dismissal of the lawsuit was With Prejudice, which means it cannot be brought again, even if new information or causes of action come to light.

Katie Lynn Graham of Nyemaster Goode, P.C. in Des Moines, the school district’s lawyer, issued the following statement:

“The parties to the pending lawsuit, through their legal counsel, have negotiated a final resolution of the matter pursuant to which the District has agreed to a $10,000 wage payment to Plaintiff-less applicable taxes and deductions, with an additional $30,000 to be paid by the insurer for the school with $17,615.83 of that $30,000 going directly to Plaintiff’s attorneys.”

On Jan. 27, 2017, Kelly Thelen, now a teacher in the Spirit Lake District, filed a petition and demand for jury trial in Emmet County Court alleging Paul and Kalous committed acts of sex discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation against Thelen.

In the petition, Thelen alleged her professional relationship with Kalous and Paul became strained upon the pregnancy with her second child, of which she informed Kalous in May, 2015. Thelen had been on maternity leave with her first child through November, 2014.

Thelen stated in the petition that she was subject to retaliation and unequal treatment compared with their treatment of other Demoney teachers which started after she announced her pregnancy, including denial of requests for pay increases commensurate with further education, time off requests within her contract, declining her application for Mentor Teacher, Model Teacher, and PLC Leader, and failure to provide a sanitary location for expressing breast milk after she returned from maternity leave.

Later in 2015, Thelen filed complaints with the ELC School Board, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Thelen alleged the actions led to her constructive discharge from the district April 2, 2016, which the Board accepted April 4, 2016 and was effective June 3, 2016.

The final settlement states Superintendent Paul, Mr. Kalous, and the ELC School District specifically provide no admission that the events recounted in the complaint happened nor that the district committed any wrongdoing. The purpose of the settlement was to resolve the conflict between the parties and avoid a lengthy and expensive litigation process for the district, according to the resolution.

Thelen was hired as a first grade teacher by Estherville Lincoln Central in the summer of 2012.