Wrongfully fired employee at odds with UDOT over duties, back pay

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah Department of Transportation employee who was wrongfully terminated continues her case against the agency she said has made her a scapegoat for the controversy over a $13 million settlement paid to the losing bidder of the I-15 CORE contract.

Denise Graham, who was fired in 2010 by UDOT, has been returned to her previous post, as a state review board demanded after determining that the firing wasn't justified. The post, however, is the same in name only and she wants to receive back pay.

Graham, who was the civil rights manager before she was fired, holds the post again, but her position's responsibilities were divvied up between two other people while she is doing work as a "research analyst."

"They put me in an engineering office," Graham said. "I'm not an engineer. There's no advancement opportunity for me there. There's no opportunity to further my career working in a strictly engineering office."

UDOT insists it's not pay back, but Graham is not so sure. UDOT spokesman Nile Easton explains that the agency was unable to give her back her full responsibilities and that it wasn't a penalty for challenging the department.

After Graham was fired from her post as UDOT's civil rights manager, she worked as a substitute teacher and struggled to make ends meet. Graham estimates the agency owes her in the range of $100,000 for back pay and legal fees.

So far, UDOT has not agreed, but insists they've tried to be reasonable. Graham says UDOT's actions should amount to further punishment.

"A scapecoat once, punishment twice," she said. "I mean continued punishment."

Graham and her attorney are going back to the state's Career Service Review board to seek clarification about just what UDOT must do, regarding her position, back pay and legal fees.

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John Daley


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