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Fired Senate staffer who won discrimination suit reinstated

Talonya Adams outside U.S. District Court in Phoenix on Oct. 16, 2019. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Talonya Adams outside U.S. District Court in Phoenix on Oct. 16, 2019. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

The Arizona Senate has reinstated a former Democratic policy adviser who won a federal discrimination lawsuit over being paid less than white male employees with similar jobs. 

Talonya Adams returned to the Senate as a senior policy adviser Monday, Senate Democratic Chief of Staff Jeffrey Winkler announced in an email to legislative staff obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times

Adams will advise Democratic senators on bills before the Commerce and Transportation and Public Safety committees, according to Winkler’s note. 

She has a salary of $113,300 — the same rate as three senior GOP policy advisers, and thousands of dollars more than Democratic policy advisers. It’s nearly double the $60,000 Adams worked for during her first stint in the Senate, from December 2012 to February 2015. 

Adams, like all Senate minority caucus employees, will report to Winkler and Senate Chief of Staff Wendy Baldo, two of the three people she accused of discriminating against her. Katie Hobbs, the Senate Minority Leader in 2015 and the third person involved in the decision to fire Adams, is now Secretary of State. 

Working for Winkler was a sticking point in negotiations between Adams and a Senate attorney, and one of the key reasons why the Senate didn’t meet an Oct. 31 deadline a federal judge set for her reinstatement. 

A federal jury found this summer that the Senate paid Adams, who is black, less than colleagues because of her race and gender, then fired her for complaining about it. Judge Douglas L. Rayes awarded her more than $350,000 in damages and ordered that the Senate reinstate her. 

The Senate has a pending motion for a new trial in the case, arguing that Adams did not lay the groundwork for a legal claim because she didn’t explain when she asked for a raise that she thought she faced discrimination. 

 Adams did not immediately return a phone call. 

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