Former schools employee sues city over discrimination

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 1:48pm

A woman forced to resign by Metro public schools last year after she was found partly responsible for hiring a sex offender is suing the city for discrimination.

Jo Patterson, a former director in the district’s human resources department, was given the option to resign or be fired after it was revealed last March that Ronald Boykin, whom Patterson’s department had recommended for hire as a teaching assistant at Donelson Middle School, was wanted as a sex offender in Chattanooga. Specifically, Boykin had apparently engaged in the sexual abuse of children.  

According to the lawsuit (which can be read here), Boykin was moved from support staff to a teaching position after only five weeks on the job. But once Boykin’s history became public, the human resources director responsible for that decision, longtime district employee Gene Foster, was given a five-day suspension without pay.

Patterson, an African-American woman, alleges in the lawsuit that Foster was given preferential treatment because he is a white male. She also defends her hiring of Boykin, saying in the suit it was not standard procedure to check for outstanding warrants issued against new hires, only for criminal history.

Since her termination in April 2009, the suit says, Patterson has fallen into a clinical depression and grapples with issues related to high anxiety, both conditions that have precluded her finding employment at the same level as before.

Joseph H. Johnston, Patterson’s attorney, told The City Paper he and his client would ask for the traditional remedies available, including back pay and compensatory damages. He said he doesn’t estimate Patterson would request reinstatement, given her mental state. Dollar amounts would be determined later. As is typical, he would not comment directly on the merits of the case.

Noelle Mashburn, spokeswoman for Metro Nashville Public Schools, said the district had not yet seen the lawsuit. A Metro spokesman said the city’s legal department would not comment on the case.

The Boykin saga became public in late March 2009, after Metro police stopped him for a routine traffic violation and discovered an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Boykin was the third public schools employee charged with a sex-related count during what was a decidedly difficult month for Metro schools. 

7 Comments on this post:

By: concernedtaxpayer on 3/31/10 at 2:26

I thought it was Human Resource's responsibility for any company to be held responsible for researching each employee yearly for criminal history including warrants. It sounds like this former director was not even doing her job but wants to sue the city for discrimination. Why does it matter about Foster whether he is hispanic, african american, white, chinese, or japanese. Patterson should be held responsible because it was her department who made the recommendation for hire as the teaching assistant. And Patterson can grow up from the fact that she is suffering depression. I believe everyone suffers depression when they are fired or layed off. Guess what Patterson, many other Metro employees will be losing their job by the fall. Do you think you deserve something more than all these others because you actually did not do your job while some of these other Metro employees are losing their job because of budget problems and not due to their job performance.

By: richgoose on 3/31/10 at 5:38

The only way a nitsh-t can get ahead today is to sue. The jury pools are loaded with nitsh--ts themselves. A great racket for the nitsh--ts of this country and this city.

By: on 4/1/10 at 7:12

This is insane, can be stop this insanity pleading sue, the sex ofender can sue the gov. just because he is sick and can not control himself medical approved and that is it, gay can adopt children and be a priest, we need a president sex ofender, gay, criminal, bank roaber, child molester and we are sett to start a civil war, some Patterson vote allready and she want big money for her mentaly instability, what she is doing in the school in the first place?

By: trombeau on 4/1/10 at 7:26

vote me in as judge and i will show you how quick most of these stupid lawsuits can be settled. it doesn't take a smart person to know what is behind all this type of stupidity.

By: Magnum on 4/1/10 at 11:36

What's the policy? That's the real question. Are they supposed to look for outstanding warrants or not? If so, she should have been fired. If not, she shouldn't have been fired and the policy should have been updated.

With regard to the preferential treatment of the other employee, why would he have ever checked the employee's history again when he had just been hired five weeks earlier? Again, if it was policy, fire him. If it wasn't, don't. I don't think you can blame hime for not double-checking your work, which is essentially what you accused him of not doing by saying he should have been fired.

By: concernedtaxpayer on 4/1/10 at 11:52

Human Resource's responsibility is to do background checks before hiring. Many companies even do background checks yearly. This lady is just finding a lame excuse to get some money.

By: Magnum on 4/1/10 at 1:33

It doesn't matter what some or even most companies do. What matters is what THEY do. I'm not arguing that the lawsuit has merit with regard to the discrimination allegation, I'm arguing that if she followed the policy and procedures for screening new hires/applicants, she shouldn't have been fired in the first place (keep in mind that I don't know if she did or not). You can't fire someone for doing exactly what you tell them to do and how to do it and then find out there is a hole in your methodology. We're talking about a school system that doesn't even run random drug tests on teachers (or at least I've never heard of them doing so), so it wouldn't surprise me if they have a lax policy.