Nicki Baker will have her day in court.
July 15, 2008 is the day that the former employee of the county welfare agency will face off against the department, its former and current top administrators, and county commissioners, whom she is suing.
Nichole “Nicki” Baker was fired Aug. 14. She is now accusing the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services (HCDJFS) of sexual discrimination, creating a hostile work environment, negligent supervision, defamation and inflicting emotional distress. Last week, Visiting Common Pleas Judge Judith Cross scheduled the jury trial.
However, Cross wrote in court documents that she expects Baker's attorney to demand a financial settlement at a June 23, 2008 pretrial conference.
HCDJFS hired Baker on Jan. 12, 2004 as a file clerk. She was an agency screener starting March 7, 2005. Baker was responsible for initial contacts with a complainant and gathering information from the person before turning it over to a case worker.
Beginning in October 2004, Baker applied for five “lateral transfers and/or promotional opportunities” and was rejected each time. Marilyn Widman, Baker’s attorney, wrote that former HCDJFS Director Erich Dumbeck approved “the final selected candidates.”
Baker, in the lawsuit, accuses Dumbeck of telephone harassment and making “unwelcome physical contact … beginning within two months of (Baker) starting work and continuing until at least January 2007.” Dumbeck, the social services supervisor when Baker was hired, is further accused of making an “unwelcome advance toward” Baker at a Norwalk bar March 17, 2004.
Last month, HCDJFS fired Baker, based on allegations she harassed a client, used profanity repeatedly with the same woman and accessed pornography using the agency computer. The lawsuit, filed April 17, indicates the client is an estranged relative of Baker’s by marriage.
She filed a complaint Aug. 15 with the Huron County Sheriff's Office, accusing someone of tampering with her work computer in connection with the pornography allegations. Detective Sgt. Dane Howard was assigned the case.
“But there was no investigation conducted at the time,” Howard said Wednesday, because his supervisors told him “it was an employee relation problem, not a criminal one.”
Both Huron County Commissioner Mike Adelman and HCDJFS Interim Director Lowell Etzler also declined to comment on Baker's lawsuit.