HARRISBURG – State Sen. Anthony Williams, a Democrat who is currently running for Philadelphia mayor, has been hit with a lawsuit by his former constituent services worker who was fired a few weeks before Christmas after she says she had to take time off for breast cancer treatment.
"I have not been served with a complaint to date," Williams, who represents the 8th District in the state Senate, said in an email statement to the Pennsylvania Record.
"That said, I have a long history of fairness, transparency and inclusion in my workplace."
Ronda Liggins-McCoy, whose LinkedIn page still lists her as "Director of Constituent Services at Senate of PA," filed her discrimination suit April 16 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Williams and the Democratic Caucus of the Senate.
Liggins-McCoy, who is suing Williams in his individual capacity only, is claiming violations of the Rehabilitation Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Williams has represented Pennsylvania's 8th Senate District since 1998, court filings said. He announced his run for mayor in March.
Liggins-McCoy started working as a constituent services representative for Williams in 2008, working in his main legislative district office in southwest Philadelphia, according to the background portion of her eight-page lawsuit. She later was transferred to the senator's district office in Yeadon, serving there as constituent services director.
Liggins-McCoy was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2017 and over the course of her treatments began having problems at work and sometimes could not come in to work at all, court filings said.
"The medications caused significant side effects such as joint/leg/muscle cramps, pain and inflammation," Liggins-McCoy said in her lawsuit. "There were also physical limitations caused by the surgery. These conditions required physical therapy sessions which (Liggins-McCoy) generally scheduled after work."
Meanwhile, unless the senator's management team was able to "dispatch assistance," the Yeadon office would experience "short period of times during certain days when there was no coverage," the lawsuit said.
The senator "took exception when this happened" and "made comments reflecting his displeasure" when Liggins-McCoy was out for treatment for her cancer, the lawsuit said.
When Liggins-McCoy was hospitalized in November, "Senator Williams asked if it was for the same issue," the lawsuit said. "She told him it was."
Early the following month, a few weeks before Christmas, Liggins-McCoy was informed during a meeting with Williams' chief of staff and Democratic Caucus human resources that "her job was being eliminated, that they were reorganizing the office," the lawsuit said.
Her most recent FMLA request had been approved by "a different legislative management office" the day before she was fired, the lawsuit said.
"The same chief of staff – who had assumed his role just weeks earlier – had made a comment regarding the age of the senator's staff, and about getting younger," the lawsuit said. "He himself had replaced an employee approximately 64 years of age."
Williams is 62 while Liggins-McCoy is 60, court filings said.
The lawsuit said Liggins-McCoy's job duties were not eliminated but were instead "absorbed" by another employee "approximately one-half" her age.
Williams is seeking wages and compensation and other damages.
The case, assigned to U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker, was filed by Fort Washington attorney Marc. E. Weinstein.