A longtime employee of Women and Children’s Horizons has filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division alleging the agency fired her for being the victim of domestic violence. Carolina (Lina) Martinez has worked at WCH since 2011. The agency hired executive director Jennifer Paine just this year. Pain is a disbarred Michigan attorney who was recently accused of practicing law without a license.
According to a filing by Ms. Martinez’s attorney, she was fired by Paine in August – ironically, for being a victim of domestic violence, the same type of women the agency is supposed to help.
According to the public document obtained by KCE:
Ms. Martinez has worked at WCH since May of 2011. In her 12 years, Ms. Martinez rose to the position of “Shelter Manager” and “Rapid Re-Housing Coordinator.” Ms. Martinez was in charge of operating the women’s shelter and assisting with finding housing for women who has been victims of domestic violence.
Ms. Martinez herself was a victim of domestic violence and this was widely known by her employer and other employees. Indeed, part of why she was so invested in her role was to help other women who had suffered from the same experiences she had.
On August 2, 2023, Ms. Paine sent an email to Ms. Martinez regarding overtime hours for staff of the Respondent. While the two were butting heads about the issue of overtime, there was never an indication that Ms. Martinez would be terminated for her work product. On August 3, 2023, Ms. Martinez was suspended from work and subsequently fired.
Ms. Martinez was in shock by her sudden termination, and found it necessary to continue the investigation as to why she was actually fired. After researching the issue, she found a document sent by Ms. Paine regarding Ms. Martinez’s termination. In the document, Ms. Paine writes: “I believe [Ms. Martinez] is committed to the DV support movement. She is herself a survivor. I often wonder if her over-reaction to basic things like working together to create a staff schedule is a reaction to feeling like she is being controlled.”
Ms. Paine’s description of Ms. Martinez’s “over-reaction to basic things” invokes sex-stereotyping as it relates to Ms. Martinez’s history as a Domestic Violence survivor. Ms. Martinez was terminated due to her history as a victim of a domestic violence survivor, which is directly connected to her sex (female) and the sex of her abuser.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ms. Martinez’s assertions that she was fired for being a female and her abuser being a male could hold water. According to its website the E.E.O.C. says:
Title VII prohibits disparate treatment based on sex, which may include treatment based on sex-based stereotypes. For example – An employer terminates an employee after learning she has been subjected to domestic violence, saying he fears the potential “drama battered women bring to the workplace.”
The Wisconsin Equal Rights Division could take several months or as much as three years to decide on which actions to take. If they refuse to take the case, statute allows Ms. Martinez to then sue the organization.
Of course, no member of the board, or the director responded to multiple inquiries for comment.
Nicole Rizzo, President
Attorney – Rizzo and Diersen
Midy McTernan, Secretary
Teacher – St. Joe’s
Carrie Kauck, Treasurer
Sandra Riese, Board Member
Retired Hospital Administrator
Clara-Lin Tappa, Board Member/Past President
Kenosha County Human Resources Director
Darshayla Hayes, Board Member
Finance St. Joe’s
Zachary Dutter, Board Member
Pleasant Prairie Police Sergeant
Dineshi Burchi, Board Member
John Plous, Board Member
Retired Court Commissioner