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The Florida Bar has quietly settled a lawsuit claiming that its former chief of attorney discipline discriminated against his legal assistant by changing her job assignment while she was on maternity leave. The amount of the March 5 settlement was not disclosed. And last month, another former Bar employee filed suit against the Florida Bar, claiming the same former chief of attorney discipline, Barry Rigby, discriminated against her because she is a black woman. In that complaint, removed last week from Leon Circuit Court to U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, the plaintiff alleges that she was “subjected to unfounded and contrived complaints about her work product and was subjected to unwarranted, repetitive and frequent criticism of her work.” Rigby denies the allegations of discrimination. Bar spokeswoman Francine Walker declined to comment, citing an internal policy that prohibits discussing employment matters. The plaintiff attorney in both cases, Marie A. Mattox, a solo practitioner in Tallahassee, declined to comment. In the first case, Sara Nam, a former legal assistant in the Bar’s Tallahassee headquarters, filed suit against the Bar in Leon Circuit Court in November 2003. In her complaint, Nam accused Rigby, her former supervisor, of sex discrimination and of violating the Family Medical Leave Act. Nam claimed that Rigby, after improperly changing her job assignment, fired her in retaliation for her complaining about the change. But in an interview, Rigby said Nam’s claims in her lawsuit, which later was removed to U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, are false. Rigby, who left the Bar in June 2003 to return to private practice in Orlando, said he fired Nam during a confrontation she started after he talked to her about several mistakes she had made. “She tried to cause a big scene standing at my office door,” Rigby said. “She said ‘I’m going home.’ And I said: ‘Don’t come back, you’re fired.’ ” He said his superiors supported his firing of Nam. Kevin Johnson, the Bar’s outside counsel and a partner with Thompson Sizemore & Gonzalez in Tampa, Fla., said the lawsuit is without merit. “The story is basically that this is a person who got into a position a little bit over her head,” Johnson said. On May 12, Angela Reynolds, a former Bar program administrator, also filed suit against the Bar, charging gender and racial discrimination. She claims her Bar superiors fired her after she complained about Rigby to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Rights. Rigby, who had returned to private practice before Reynolds’ termination in September 2003, denies those allegations as well. His unfavorable reviews of Reynolds’ work had nothing to do with race or sex, but instead focused on her unsatisfactory job performance, he said. “It hurts me that anybody would accuse me of being a racist,” Rigby said. In an interview, Jami Coleman, a former Bar program assistant who worked for Rigby but no longer works for the Bar, defended her former boss and corroborated Rigby’s account of what happened with Reynolds. Coleman, who said she sat next to Reynolds, called the lawsuit a ploy by Reynolds to cover up her poor job performance. “Barry was a great supervisor,” said Coleman, who said she left the Bar in January 2003 to finish a degree in political science. “I didn’t see any discrimination, and I think I can say that as an African-American woman.”

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