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WOMAN WINS $300,000 IN VA RELIGIOUS BIAS SUIT

A former pharmacist at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center has won a $300,000 federal jury award against the Department of Veterans Affairs over an allegation of religious discrimination.

Lynne C. Krop, 45, of Clear-water said during a four-day trial that ended Thursday in U.S. District Court that the VA refused to allow her time off without pay for Jewish religious holidays.

Krop's attorneys argued that the VA was obligated under federal law to provide the time off. Instead, the VA told Krop to take vacation and sick leave, the suit said, which she wanted to save for family vacation.

Krop said she was essentially forced to resign over the dispute in 2004 after 14 years at the VA.

Krop, who worked as an infectious disease clinical pharmacist and clinical residency director, could not be reached for comment. The VA declined to comment pending an appeal.

Krop said in the lawsuit that it was VA policy to allow employees to take time off without pay for any reason. In fact, she had previously been allowed time off for religious holidays. But she said that changed when her supervisor retired.

In December 2003, Krop said the new supervisor told her that she was taking too much time off, noting that Krop had used 146 hours of leave without pay in that year alone.

The new supervisor also refused to allow her to come in to work 15 minutes later several times a week so Krop could bring her children to school. On those days, Krop would have worked 15 minutes later.

Her supervisor said Krop wanted to take time off for vacations and family events, as well as religious holidays. Her supervisor said that if he made an exception for Krop, he'd have to do it for everybody.

The VA said it offered Krop alternatives, other than using vacation leave, that would have allowed her to take off the holidays.

After the dispute, Krop said her supervisors put her under a microscope, looking for reasons to reprimand her.

"It became intolerable," her lawsuit said, "and she felt that the only way to salvage a positive professional reputation was to resign."

The VA denied the charge.

William R. Levesque can be reached at (813) 226-3436 or levesque@sptimes.com.

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