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The discrimination and retaliation claims of a former DLA Piper secretary against the firm have survived a dismissal motion, but a Boston federal judge tossed a few of her claims against individual DLA employees. Both federal and state claims of sex and race discrimination survived a June 15 order by District Judge Denise Casper of the District of Massachusetts in Sisco v. DLA Piper. According to the complaint, DLA hired Shonnett Sisco, an African-American woman, as a floating special assignment secretary. In July 2006, she was promoted to legal secretary and assigned to work for two partners, including defendant Lawrence Uchill. Sisco’s complaint alleges that Uchill asked to take her to lunch in January 2008 “to find out what was on her mind” and began frequently winking and smiling suggestively at her. Then, in April 2008, Sisco alleges that Uchill asked her to type sexually suggestive lyrics, which she found offensive. Following complaints to human resources, Sisco was reassigned as a floater in April 2008. She claims that Susan Scannell, who replaced her as Uchill’s secretary, became angry with her for refusing to return to Uchill’s work area to help Scannell with certain tasks. She also claims that Scannell falsely accused her of stealing a box of Scannell’s personal belongings around this time. In addition, she claims her merit increase for the fiscal year ending April 30, 2008, was based on the floater position, and lower than she would have received as a legal secretary, despite her work as legal secretary for 49 out of 52 weeks during the review period. In addition, Sisco claims the firm filed a vacant legal secretary position reporting to defendant Bruce Falby while she was on vacation from late August 2008 through early September of that year. The position went to a white fellow floater and was offered to three other white internal candidates without being posted, according to Sisco’s complaint. Sisco claims that Uchill continued to act inappropriately toward her, including gesturing her with a “downward smack” that was seen by many others. She filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging hostile work environment and retaliation on November 5, 2008, and claims she was fired on February 12, 2009. In her ruling, Casper dismissed dismissed Sisco’s sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims against Scannell and Uchill under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because “[t]here is no individual liability under Title VII.” She also dismissed Sisco’s state law race discrimination retaliation claim and her aiding and abetting race discrimination retaliation claim against Falby, finding that “Falby’s actions predated the actions taken by Sisco that provoked DLA Piper’s allegedly retaliatory intent.” The surviving claims include Sisco’s race discrimination, sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims against DLA Piper under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sisco’s retaliation claims against the firm related to sexual harassment under Title VII also survived. Sisco’s Massachusetts state law sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims against the firm and Scannell and Uchill, along with related aiding and abetting retaliation claims against Scannell and Uchill, also survived the dismissal motion. Her state law race discrimination claims against both the firm and Falby survived the dismissal motion, along with the related retaliation claim against the firm. “We’re generally pleased with the judge’s decision and hoping to move on to discovery,” said Sisco’s lawyer, Sarah Catapano-Friedman of The Catapano-Friedman Law Firm, based in Boston. The defendants’ lawyer, Josh Davis, the Boston managing shareholder of Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, declined to comment. DLA Piper has no comment, according to a spokesman. Falby and Scannell also declined to comment. Uchill did not respond to requests for comment. Sheri Qualters can be contacted at [email protected].

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