Eight EEOC complaints filed

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Eight current and former employees of Marshall County Schools, mostly at the Central Office, are alleging discrimination in complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office in Nashville.

The complainants who've filed in recent months include: Jackie Abernathy, Tyra D. Braden, Larry Miller, Teresa Moses, Patsey Y. Thomas, Janet Wiles, Angie Williams and Linda Williams-Lee. EEOC notified the school system about the complaints starting on Sept. 23 and ending on Nov. 1.

Sam Jackson, the school's system's attorney had no comment because the federal investigation was still being conducted and he continues to work on the system's response in conjunction with the school board and Schools Director Roy Dukes.

"I imagine that some of this will become a topic of discussion at an open meeting," said Jackson, who's had attorney-client conferences with the board and schools director.

Jackson was assigned on Sept. 13 to investigate allegations against some Central Office personnel that were sent to board members several days earlier.

Dukes refrained from comment Monday, explaining the investigations were incomplete.

In chronological order, the complaint documents show the following.

* Braden complained on Sept. 22, saying she's an African-American who's unfairly paid as an administrative assistant for the federal programs led by the only African-American program director. In April, her pay was brought in line with white administrative assistants, but in August her pay was reduced after the board "had already approved the budget," according to her complaint, which is a public record.

County commissioners voted on Sept. 27 to approve the annual budget.

"On Sept. 8... I complained ... and the board ... directed me to repay the corrected amounts I was paid," Braden said. "White administrative assistants in other programs have not been directed to repay approved wages..."

* Thomas complained on Sept. 22, saying she's a "light-skinned African-American" supervising attendance and testing and that she has "been harassed by the School Board." She's complained in the past to EEOC, now adding that starting in March she was "accused of starting trouble for telling other African-American employees of their rights."

She named school board member Barbara Kennedy, alleging that she "has told me that she didn't want two blacks as supervisors in (the) Central Office."

On Monday night, Kennedy said, "I question the validity of naming me, as I do not employ anyone in the school system except Mr. Dukes, and I expect the Board's attorney will respond as such."

Thomas adds retaliation to her complaint of discrimination.

* Williams-Lee, a former county commissioner who's the director of federal programs for the school system, complained on Sept. 22, saying white program directors "do not have the same scrutiny for their budgets" and her administrative assistants are not paid at the same rate as those assigned to white program directors."

After she tried to correct the wage disparity, she said, "a school board member filed a complaint accusing me of misuse of federal funds..."

Williams-Lee adds retaliation to her complaint of discrimination.

* Miller, the principal of Forrest High School, complained on Sept. 26 that he's a victim of discrimination because he's a white man who is 62 years of age.

In January, Miller applied for the job of schools director, but the board "appointed an African-American male without interviewing him," the EEOC record shows. Dukes "was the interim director and could not apply without permission of the board."

The board conducted no interviews and Dukes didn't abide by the board's required procedures by submitting a resume and application.

Miller applied to be deputy director, but Dukes selected two women with less experience, EEOC records show. Miller also applied to be assistant director and a younger man with no administrative experience was selected.

* Abernathy also complains of age discrimination, and because she's white, and in violation of federal law "because of my disability."

Her Oct. 1 complaint says she worked as a teacher from 1974-2006 and then worked under a 120-day contract annually for four years as attendance supervisor.

Dukes wanted her to continue, but the budget he presented to other county officials on May 17 did not include her job "due to budget cuts." Subsequently, the job she had became a full-time position "at a much greater cost..." and the opening wasn't posted. The person with that job is an African-American woman with no experience.

* Moses complained on Oct. 1, saying on May 17 her job was abolished on Dukes' recommendation.

Williams-Lee "harassed me on a daily basis" and another supervisor told the budget director that Williams-Lee said, "as soon as Mr. Dukes was appointed, 'We need to get rid of Teresa.'" the EEOC document states.

"My husband (Donnie Moses) announced for (the) school board (race that he won) right before my job was abolished," Moses states in the EEOC complaint. "He (Donnie Moses) ran against Mr. Dukes' supporter."

She complains of racial discrimination and retaliation.

* Williams' complaint was filed Oct. 4. It says she was discriminated against because she's white. She was hired as a federal projects secretary, but in May she as told her insurance clerk position was abolished by Dukes starting in June. On June 15, she was told the special education supervisor suggested Dukes return her to a special education secretarial position.

During that meeting, Williams-Lee "began yelling and stated that would not work because I previously worked for her," Williams said in her complaint. Furthermore, Williams was not interviewed for the job she'd sought, having been led to believe the position was cut due to budget constraints. However, the job was filled before her job ended.

* Wiles' complaint, filed Oct. 24, says she "was subjected to a hostile work environment where ... Dukes ... and Williams-Lee harassed me on several occasions."

On May 17, after Dukes abolished several positions, he assigned her additional duties and that in doing so, "Dukes was forcing me to resign due to the workload and hours that were required to complete the tasks," Wiles said.

Wiles resigned on May 18. She complains of discrimination because she is white.

School Board Chairman Mike Keny had no comment about the complaints when asked on Monday night.

The complaints have been "turned over to our attorney," he said. He will have something to say "at the appropriate time."

Tribune staff writer Karen Hall contributed to this report.