SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A former education program specialist with the South Dakota Department of Education is demanding a jury trial over her termination in 2022.

A lawsuit filed at the end of March alleges that former DOE employee Kathryn Dryden was discriminated against on the basis of her sex and pregnancy in 2022 when she was discharged by the state. Dryden is asking for compensatory relief, damages from loss of past and future income, benefits and emotional distress with interest as well as attorney fees in addition to a jury trial.

The Department of Education has not responded to a request for comment.

According to the filed lawsuit, when Dryden requested maternity leave in 2021, her supervisor allegedly suggested a hybrid maternity leave in which Dryden would work remotely following her 12 weeks of leave so that she could be at home with her newborn infant. At the time, Dryden was struggling to find child care in Pierre due to closures and providers not accepting infants due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Eventually, Dryden found child care but the center could not accept her infant until after her maternity leave ended.

Dryden claims that she submitted a written request for hybrid maternity leave to her direct supervisor, Christina Lusk, DOE division director Cheriee Watterson, program director Mikayla Hardy and Bureau of Human Resources representative Deb Olson. Additionally, Dryden said she spoke with Lusk and Watterson about how she would work remotely with her infant at home during her hybrid leave.

Documents go on to state that on November 9, 2021, Dryden began her maternity leave. On January 29, 2022, Dryden went to the DOE office ahead of the start of her remote work scheduled to begin on February 1, 2022.

“At that time, Watterson orally confirmed that Dryden was permitted to work remotely for the next twelve (12) weeks,” the lawsuit states.

Then, on January 31 just one day before her remote work was to begin Dryden said she was contacted by Hardy who told her that remote work was no longer “feasible for Dryden to work from home with an infant present, and that Dryden needed to be back in the office full-time on February 1, 2022, or Dryden would no longer be employed.”

Dryden then contacted Darin Seeley with BHR who she said informed her that she would not be fired if she didn’t report to in-person work on February 1st and that he would “look into” her complaint about her hybrid leave being revoked.

The following day, Dryden logged on from home where she was immediately pulled into a telephone meeting in which she was told there was a form for remote that needed to be completed. Dryden said that was the first time she had heard of the form.

“During this meeting, Olson stated that Dryden’s remote work request was not going to be approved because if it was approved, ‘every new mom’ would be asking to work from home,” the lawsuit claims.

Following the call, Dryden chose to use accrued paid leave through February 14 after which she would be placed on unpaid leave until March 7, 2022, when she would have to return to the office. March 7 was also when child care for her infant would begin. But on February 8, 2022, Dryden said she was told that approval of her paid and unpaid leave requests would be revoked and she would need to turn in her equipment to DOE offices on February 9 at which point she would “be placed on a status that Hardy called ‘permanent leave without pay.’”

A month later the DOE acknowledged Dryden’s departure in a March 3 document stating, “Our CACFP Program Specialist Katie Dryden left us in late February.”