A Metro Nashville Public Schools employee is suing the system after she said a much younger and less qualified employee was offered a position for which she too was a candidate.
Betty Russell, a 62-year-old MNPS employee, filed the federal lawsuit in Nashville on Monday, claiming that when she lost out on a senior secretary position at Middle College High School in the fall of 2008 it wasn’t based on merit. An independent review of the matter found the position may have been awarded based on favoritism or some other consideration outside of MNPS standard procedure.
Russell also claims the school system later acted in retaliation against her after she filed a grievance based on the hiring decision. She is suing MNPS for an unspecified amount of back pay, lost benefits, compensatory damages, punitive damages and other relief.
A representative from the MNPS communications office directed questions to the Metro Department of Law. A Metro attorney said the department had yet to receive the complaint and, therefore, had not yet been able to review it.
Though Russell had 29 years of MNPS experience, she claims in the suit that the position went to someone nearly half Russell’s age and with only three years of MNPS experience.
Russell filed a grievance with MNPS, and an outside reviewer found that Russell was more qualified and the job was awarded aside from the objective facts.
In an August 2009 letter to schools Director Jesse Register, that reviewer, Drescher & Sharp PC attorney Bryan Pieper wrote that he found the position wasn’t filled based on qualifications but that “favoritism and/or other considerations” may have played a role because the woman who got the job was known to be the daughter-in-law of other MNPS employees.
The grievance review stated, however, that there was no evidence, or even a claim by Russell, that the woman or her in-laws tried to influence her hiring.
The complaint goes on to claim that faced with the review findings MNPS did not attempt to find a comparable position for Russell even though they were available.
Russell also claims that in February 2010 a Hunter’s Lane High School student attacked and injured her, but that she received a written reprimand for fighting back in self-defense. She said that reprimand was retaliatory in nature.