Schenectady County

Former Niskayuna senior program worker awaits benefit hearing

A former part-time Niskayuna senior programs worker is awaiting a hearing on her unemployment benefi

A former part-time Niskayuna senior programs worker is awaiting a hearing on her unemployment benefits claim after leaving her job alleging a hostile work environment.

The hearing request comes after her claim was denied.

Sue Leonard had been employed part-time in senior programs for seven years when she left her job in August, saying she was blamed for problems she didn’t create and alleging that she was forced out.

Town Supervisor Joe Landry confirmed the unemployment claim Tuesday but said the allegations in it are false. He also noted that the state Department of Labor denied the claim.

Lenoard’s unemployment claim was denied in a letter dated Oct. 5. She told The Daily Gazette this week she has requested a hearing on the issue.

Leonard oversaw much of the senior program, planning trips and scheduling speakers. Many of those participating in the town’s senior program came out to support her during budget talks last fall. The seniors feared her job would be eliminated, though it was not.

The result of the budget process last year was a new part-time post of assistant senior citizen program coordinator. The Town Board in June appointed April Steenburgh to the post.

Leonard left effective Aug. 19. By that time, her hours had been cut to six per week, she said. Her hours had previously been cut from 25 or 30 a week to 17; she said she was told she needed to live in the county and take a civil service test to work more than 17. Leonard had lived in Clifton Park throughout her employment with Niskayuna.

Additionally, Leonard said she was blamed for things that weren’t her fault and unduly reprimanded. She called it “bullying.”

“I feel they bullied me out of that job,” Leonard said. “I loved that job. I’d love to be there still, if things were to change. But it was set up to be negative right from the beginning.”

Landry rejected her criticism Tuesday and noted that Leonard left on her own.

“That’s totally false,” he said. “She resigned of her own free will.”

Landry also noted the Labor Department’s ruling in denying her benefits and called the hearing that she has requested normal due process.

Asked about the issue Tuesday, Town Board member Jonathan McKinney, co-chairman of the senior programs committee, said he wasn’t made aware of the unemployment filing until about two weeks ago. Because of that, he referred comment to Landry.

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