Sarasota County Schools accused of gender discrimination

Sarasota County Schools accused of gender discrimination
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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WWSB) - A Sarasota woman is accusing the county’s largest employer of gender discrimination. She says she was turned away because of a problem that affects many woman who have ever been married or divorced.

Keri Zane wanted to work for Sarasota County Schools, so she did what everyone does: filled out an application.

“I was very much excited because of the flexibility involved with it,” said Zane.

That application was rejected not because she wasn’t qualified, but because her married and maiden names didn’t match on government documents. Now, she’s fighting back.

Zane, a mother of three kids, including a special needs child, applied to substitute at Oak Park School, to help other special needs students like her daughter.

She says she filled out all the required paperwork, took an eight hour online course, until she hit a roadblock in the application process.

“Certain paperwork had to have the exact name on certain documents and I knew that I did not have the exact name,” explained Zane.

While zane’s social security card lists her married and maiden name, her drivers license only shows her maiden name.

A simple fix, right? Except Zane and her husband are in the middle of a divorce. She can’t get a new social security card until her divorce is final, and getting a new license with her married name would be a waste.

“If I go to the DMV and change it to my married name going through the process of a divorce, then I would have to go back and change all my documentations again,” said Zane.

Zane asked Sarasota County School’s Human Resources department to make an exception, but according to emails between Zane and the school district, HR said they use the name on the social security card for payroll purposes, which is why that name must exactly match the name on the W-2 form and the second form of identification.

The Social Security Administration says the name on a person’s card needs to match the W-2, but its website doesn’t mention anything about matching a drivers license or passport.

“It’s not required by the social security administration, it’s not required by the IRS, there’s no actual requirement by any government official,” explained Sara Blackwell, Attorney with The Blackwell Firm.

Zane is now working with Blackwell, and have filed gender discrimination complaints with the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Sarasota County Schools.

“It’s going to affect women a lot more than its going to affect men because women are going to have to change their last name when they get married,” said Blackwell.

Blackwell calls the case disparate impact discrimination, which means the rule has a different purpose, but unintentionally negatively impacts a certain group of people. Blackwell also thinks the district’s rule could also hurt Hispanics, since some have multiple last names.

“I don’t think the Sarasota County school board is intentionally discriminating against women and Hispanics,” said Blackwell.

By filing the complaint, Blackwell and Zane just want the district to change the I.D. requirements.

“Women shouldn’t have to jump through hoops for a rule that has no purpose what so ever,” said Blackwell.

Blackwell explained she and her client will drop the case if the district changes its rules. If not, she tells us they will have to take further action, which may include filing a lawsuit against Sarasota County Schools. Zane wants to be a voice for other women in a similar situation.

“Apparently I’ve taken that on,” laughed Zane.

ABC7 reached out to Sarasota County Schools for comment, and was told no one was available. It added that the district wasn’t actually aware of the gender discrimination claim, nor have they been contacted by the justice department in “an official capacity.”

ABC7 has e-mails from the D.O.J. and case numbers with the E.E.O.C. that show the claims have been filed.

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