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New Hampshire settles DCYF whistleblower suit for $275K

By DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 25. 2018 9:49AM


CONCORD — The state has settled a lawsuit by a former social worker in the Department for Children, Youth and Families for $275,000.

The employment discrimination lawsuit filed in January 2017 by Ashley Rossiter of Georgetown, Mass., claimed her “attempts to ensure the safety of New Hampshire children” resulted in reprimands, poor evaluations, multiple investigations and denial of promotions and pay increases until she was fired on Oct. 4, 2016.

“I’m hoping the reaction to this will have other child protection service workers come forward to speak out if they are in the same situation,” said Rossiter on Friday after making the settlement public. “And I’m hopeful there will be other changes as to how employees are treated.”

Rossiter claims she was trying to bring the department’s problems to the attention of senior management when she was fired.

As part of the settlement, she is also promised a meeting with newly appointed DCYF Director Joe Ribsam “for the purposes of articulating her concerns about DCYF operations.” She also gets a letter of recommendation from her former supervisor.

Rossiter said the case was set to go to trial in June when the state proposed the out-of-court settlement, dated July 19.

Both parties to the settlement agree that it should not be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing on the part of the state, which denies all claims by Rossiter.

“There are issues with every case regarding the facts, different interpretations of the law and the use of state employees as witnesses which takes them away from their jobs,” said Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards. “All of these factors, and more, are weighed in deciding whether to settle a case. In this case, a decision was made to settle with the former employee for $275,000 rather than proceed to a multi-day trial.”

Rossiter said she would not sign a non-disclosure agreement, nor was one proposed.

“I think they knew who they were dealing with,” she said. “I wanted this out and open to the public. They knew I would rather go to trial than keep it behind closed doors.”

As part of the settlement, Rossiter agreed to return all “case-specific documents pertaining to specific DCYF clients.”

Rossiter’s attorney, Stephen Martin of Concord, accused the state of violating state and federal employment discrimination statutes, the N.H. Whistleblower’s Protection Act and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act in its handling of Rossiter, who had worked for DHHS since March 2011 before her firing in 2016.

The Rossiter settlement is one more public challenge to the state’s child protective service agency, which in recent weeks has had to pay out a $6.5 million settlement in connection with one abuse case; has been sued in connection with a child fatality in Manchester; is facing a lawsuit from a child fatality in Nashua; and continues to get negative reviews from outside evaluators.

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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