NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Late Monday evening (March 6), a jury ruled in favor of a former Marshall County Schools administrator, Dr. Patsey Thomas, in her employment discrimination suit against the school system, finding that the school had a pattern and practice of bias and awarding her more than $500,000 in damages. Morgan & Morgan attorneys Kathryn Barnett, Brian Winfrey, and Jason Gichner represented Dr. Thomas in the crucial case against a school district known for its racial hostility.
A Tennessee federal jury found the school district guilty of racial discrimination, retaliation, fostering a hostile work environment and constructive discharge, which involves creating an environment so bad for an employee that the employee's resignation was effectively a discharge.
Dr. Thomas, who is African-American, has a Doctorate of Education in School Administration and was Coordinator of Health in the district until 2012, alleged in her complaint that the school board and district exercised a pattern and practice of discrimination against African-American administrators, setting Dr. Thomas and the other African American supervisors in the Central Office up to fail, by voting to deny them assistants, subjecting them to increased and unwarranted scrutiny and placing increasing demands on them.
In January 2012, the board voted in a new director of schools. Within three months the new director of schools, Jackie Abernathy, had fired or demoted 100 percent of the African American supervisors from the Central Office. Dr. Patsey Thomas, who had served the school district for more than 20 years, was demoted to middle school Physical Education teacher — the same job she had when she started working for the schools in 1989. After her demotion, Dr. Thomas applied and was rejected for ten supervisor-level jobs in the school system, including assistant principal, principal and Central Office administrator vacancies.
Barnett, one of her attorneys, praised the jury's decision.
"We shined a light on something dark and ugly," Barnett said, "and I am proud to have been a part of helping to right the serious wrong of the way the Marshall County school system mistreated Dr. Thomas."
"We added well-known employee advocate Brian Winfrey to our team so that we can pursue justice for mistreated workers in cases just like this – wherever and whenever they occur," Barnett added.
Allegations of racism are nothing new to Marshall County schools. In 1993, the district entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, because the agency found poor treatment of African-American students.
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