Ex-employee alleges age, religious discrimination

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SANDPOINT — A former Bonner County employee alleges she was fired from her job because of age and religious discrimination.

Patti Lee Lynch filed a tort claim against the county on Nov. 15. She also filed a complaint with the Idaho Human Rights Commission.

The damages sought in the claim are not specified.

County officials do not comment on pending tort claims.

Lynch, 52, began working as a receptionist at the county commissioners’ office in 2009 and was later promoted to administrative assistant, the claim said. She subsequently transferred to the Assistance Office, which aids veterans and the indigent.

Lynch said the department’s director, Kevin Rothenberger, remarked to her in March that she no longer needed to work because she had out-of-state retirement benefits. Lynch further alleges that Rothenberger later called her a sinner because she smoked cigarettes and was not a churchgoer.

Rothenberger, Lynch points out in the claim, is an associate pastor at the Cocolalla Cowboy Church.

Lynch was told in June she was being fired for making too many errors in her work, an allegation which she denies.

Lynch filed a complaint with the Idaho Human Rights Commission on Nov. 5.

The county has 30 days to file a written response. Commission files are not open to the public at large.

The complaint can be resolved through mediation or investigated if a settlement cannot be reached. Once the investigation is complete, the commission decides if there is probable cause to believe illegal discrimination has occurred.

If there is no finding of probable cause, the case is closed and Lynch would be permitted to pursue her case in district court. If probable cause is found, the matter could be resolved through conciliatory settlement proceedings or litigation by the commission.

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