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Former prosecutor sues Suffolk district attorney

The office of DA Dan Conley says the firing was unrelated to the gender of the plaintiff.
The office of DA Dan Conley says the firing was unrelated to the gender of the plaintiff.AP File

A former Suffolk County prosecutor filed suit in federal court this week against District Attorney Daniel Conley, alleging she was the subject of wage and gender discrimination and fired in September when she complained about it.

Christina Corda, an assistant district attorney in the gang unit for seven years, said in documents filed in US District Court in Boston that she and another colleague were paid less than several newer and less experienced hires.

“What is particularly disturbing about this case is that the DA’s Office is charged with enforcing the law, and here it appears to have violated one of the core civil rights that employees have in the workplace,” said Stephen S. Churchill, Corda’s lawyer.

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Jake Wark, a spokesman for Conley, said Corda was fired for unacceptable and inappropriate behavior and her “compensation and termination were wholly unrelated to her gender.”

“We will address the claim in court,” Wark said.

Before she was fired, the lawsuit said, Corda had never faced disciplinary action; in fact, she had been promoted and lauded by supervisors, including Conley, for her gang prosecutions. Beginning in March 2014, she repeatedly complained to her supervisor in meetings and e-mails about the relatively low salaries of her and an African-American colleague, who was identified only as “R.A.” in the lawsuit.

Corda, who state records show was paid $56,000 in 2013, was told after months of waiting that she would not receive a raise because it would trigger demands from other employees, according to the lawsuit. At a going-away party for another colleague on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, Corda told John Towle, the Suffolk district attorney’s chief of staff, that she and her colleague did not make enough money and that she believed it was because she is a woman and her colleague is black, according to the complaint.

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“Mr. Towle asked if she really believed that, and she said she did,” the lawsuit said. “He then walked away without saying anything more.”

The following Monday, Conley called Corda to his office and fired her because of the “untrue and offensive” remarks she made to Towle, according to the lawsuit. She was escorted to her office and asked to turn in her phone, pass, and credentials.

“It is difficult to imagine more clear-cut evidence of retaliation,” Churchill said.

The lawsuit said the district attorney’s office subsequently responded to her allegations by saying Corda “accosted the DA’s Office’s chief of staff at a commercial establishment making profane and hostile statements about her pay rate, alleged discrimination, and political favoritism.”

The lawsuit said evidence would show that the environment at the district attorney’s office “was not genteel, and Ms. Corda’s alleged conduct was not unusual.”

“Among other things, profanity, work events at which employees drank, and heated discussions were part of the culture of the DA’s office,” it said.


Megan Woolhouse can be reached at megan.woolhouse@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @megwoolhouse.