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Former pilot sues Nevada claiming gender discrimination

RENO — A former pilot for the state of Nevada who says she was replaced by a man after she was told her position no longer was needed has filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the state.

Jennifer Kuklock says her supervisor’s claim in 2016 was a false pretext to terminate her because of her gender, in violation of her civil rights.

Department officials don’t comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman Meg Ragonese said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Kuklock flew planes for the governor, state Supreme Court justices and other high-ranking officials between Reno and Las Vegas after she was hired as a pilot intern in August 2013.

Her lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court, says the agency traditionally hired pilots under intern positions, that two pilots were required on all flights and she was the only female pilot at the Nevada Department of Transportation.

In addition to replacing her with a man, the state hired independent contractors to fly state planes because of a shortage of pilots.

“This was required because, after terminating (her), NDOT did not have enough pilots to fly the normal schedule for the state plane. These independent contractor pilots were all male,” the lawsuit said. “NDOT spent more money on these independent contractor pilots than it would have paid (Kuklock) had it not terminated her.”

She’s seeking unspecified damages for loss of pay and benefits, harm to her professional reputation and substantial emotional distress.

Kuklock says a new chief pilot hired in November 2015, Scott Hoffmeyer, made repeated disparaging remarks about her, but that she had been praised by the agency’s director and others and received no criticism of her performance before Hoffmeyer terminated her.

The lawsuit said he was “hostile and aggressive.”

Hoffmeyer didn’t behave that way toward male pilots, the lawsuit said.

In January 2016, Hoffmeyer informed Kuklock he was eliminating her intern position because there was “no business need” for it, but if it ever returned, she could reapply, the lawsuit said.

About two weeks after her job was eliminated, she discovered the position had been posted on the state’s human resources page three days before she was terminated, and that she could reapply.

Hoffmeyer told her after he interviewed her the following month she would be notified whether she got the job, but she never was, the lawsuit said. She later learned a man with substantially less experience had been hired, it states.

Another intern position was created in 2016 and Hoffmeyer hired another man — a friend of his significantly less experienced than Kuklock, the lawsuit said. It said there were no job postings, applicants or interviews in that process.

Kuklock’s lawsuit says she filed a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, which found probable cause that discrimination occurred.

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