By DANIEL HERATY
DEARBORN – A judgment that would have reversed a decision to award a former probation officer more than $400,000 in lost wages and benefits was dismissed Aug. 10 by 3rd Circuit Court Judge Jeanne Stempien.
Stempien rejected a judgment notwithstanding motion against a June 3 ruling in favor of Simone Calvas, who served as the 19th District Court’s probation officer from 2002 until 2007 when she was fired by Chief Judge Mark Somers.
In a lawsuit filed in 2008 with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division, Calvas said she was harassed by Somers due to her non-marital relationship during which she gave birth to twins. It further said a handbook defining her position never existed and her firing was without just cause.
At the trial, Somers testified that Calvas was an at-will employee and he did not need just cause to fire her. The jury determined the court had a progressive discipline policy in place meant to help an employees’ job performance before they are fired, which was not followed.
Michael King Jr. from the State Attorney General’s office who represented the district court, said the handbook existed, and Calvas knew about it. He said she received it when she was a part-time employee and the framework still applied when she worked full-time.
Stempien disagreed, saying that three different chief judges, Virginia Sabotka, William Hultgren and Somers, changed her status at different times, and an employee’s status can’t be determined at the whim of a chief judge.
“Each chief judge testified differently, and it became a matter of credibility. The jury chose to believe Judge Hultgren,” she said.
“(The jury) determined she was a just cause employee.”
(Daniel Heraty can be reached at [email protected].)