Woman fails to prove discrimination claims after she lost counseling job

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A woman who was not hired by the private company the Department of Correction contracted with to provide counseling for inmates could not prove the company’s decision was due to age or sex discrimination.

Diane Ripberger worked as the only counselor for Level 4 offenders at Pendleton Correctional Facility when the DOC entered into a contract with Corizon Inc. to provide counseling services.  Corizon decided to stop employing a counselor for Level 4 offenders. Corizon wanted to hire as many DOC counselors as possible, but it did not have enough openings as compared to the current number of counselors. Ripberger, who was 59 at the time, interviewed for a counseling position at Pendleton, but she was not hired. She was offered a job at another facility but declined because she didn’t want to travel.

She filed her lawsuit alleging age and sex discrimination as well as retaliation. She believes that her support of a fellow DOC employee, Connie Orton-Bell, in her sex discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment lawsuit against the DOC played a part in Corizon’s decision to not hire Ripberger.

The District Court granted Corizon’s motion for summary judgment.

The 7th Circuit affirmed in Diane M. Ripberger v. Corizon Inc., 13-2070, noting Ripberger provided little to no evidence to support her discrimination claims. Corizon presented evidence that showed it intended to keep continuity where possible when hiring counselors, so it made sense the company hired the six other Pendleton counselors whose jobs were not cut when Corizon took over.

Ripberger’s evidence, when considered together or in isolation, does not establish a causal link between her support of Orton-Bell and Corizon’s decision not to hire her, the 7th Circuit held.

“As the district court noted, Ripberger was a qualified substance abuse counselor who was the unfortunate victim of a reduced workforce at the Pendleton facility when IDOC privatized its substance abuse counseling program,” Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote. “Regardless of how the evidence is viewed, it is simply insufficient to demonstrate any unlawful motivation behind Corizon’s failure to hire her.”


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