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The attorney for a law librarian used his client’s testimony Friday to portray her as a hardworking employee who was punished by her employers at the California Judicial Center Library for having a medical condition. Karen Toran testified she even slept at the library one night during a particularly busy period to make sure everything went smoothly the next morning. Toran is suing the state and the woman who was hired as her boss, Frances Jones, in San Francisco Superior Court. She alleges that Jones and the state denied her family and medical leave, violating the California Family Rights Act and disability discrimination provisions in the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. Toran alleges that when she complained, Jones retaliated by giving her unjustified disciplinary warnings and pay reductions, ultimately firing her in May 2000. But Jones, briefly on the stand for re-direct Friday, said, “I don’t think I was concerned about how much leave was being used, because I approved the leave. I was concerned about the absences, and that’s not exactly the same thing.” A trial judge dismissed the causes of action against Jones, but the Sixth District Court of Appeal reversed the dismissal May 19, just two days before the trial against the state began Wednesday in Judge John Munter’s courtroom. Though it was the plaintiff’s day for witnesses, defense attorney Nancy Pritikin of Littler Mendelson scored some points on cross-examination. Robert Wandruff, retired clerk-administrator at the California Supreme Court, said that according to policy at the time, medical absences could be included in an overall evaluation of an employee’s attendance. When Jones began keeping track of Toran’s absences, he said it appeared she was gone “a substantial amount of the time.” But assistant clerk-administrator John Rossi, who worked under Wandruff, testified that he didn’t believe Toran had an attendance problem. He found her to be a dedicated, hardworking employee, he said. Wandruff also said under Pritikin’s questioning that when Jones was hired to head the new library, Toran, who had also applied for the position, was very disappointed. A 17-year employee, Toran acknowledged she was “shocked” and angry when she found out Jones got the job, explaining that she felt Jones had betrayed their friendship. But after a grieving period, she said, she resolved that she wanted to keep her job and would make her best effort at work. “I wanted us to get off to a good start, and I wanted her to know that I was there to help her,” Toran said, so she organized a staff breakfast on Jones’ first day, bringing in bagels, fruit and a tablecloth for the occasion. Toran’s attorney, Daniel Qualls of San Francisco’s Qualls & Workman, also had her describe how an asthmatic flare-up affects her, eliciting a somewhat graphic description of uncontrollable coughing and green mucus. Qualls also called two library staffers who had worked with Jones and Toran. He questioned them on whether they had accounted for time away from their work stations in a staff log in an effort to further Toran’s argument that she was singled out. Bonnie Lee said she hadn’t; Pamela Williams said she didn’t recall using such a log. But when Pritikin asked Lee if anyone had ever told her the staff log was only for Toran, Lee replied, “No.” The trial for Toran v. State of California, 401624, is expected to continue through the end of this week, the plaintiff’s attorneys said.

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