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Former MJ staffer suing city, boss - Plaintiff claims public works director harassed her and city demoted her
Aug 15, 2006 12:00 am
A former Mt. Juliet city employee accusing the city's Public Works director of creating a hostile work environment has taken her case to federal court.
Sandra Dempsey, a former administrative assistant to Mt. Juliet Public Works Director Hatton Wright, accuses him of contributing to a hostile work environment and harassment, saying the city did nothing to stop it.
The suit filed Tuesday names the City of Mt. Juliet as the defendant – an entity which the suit accuses of violating the former employee's civil rights and breaking the Tennessee Human Rights Act by "establishing a hostile work environment permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insults … sufficiently severe to … create an abusive working environment."
Dempsey originally filed an internal complaint with the city in April, which was dismissed later that month with the city calling the allegations "unfounded." She resigned April 24.
Dempsey also claims the city demoted her from the administrative position to one in the parks department. The suit states her job in parks department included cleaning public restrooms, mowing the grass and other activites before she resigned.
The suit claims Wright made various inappropriate comments to Dempsey, including asking her, "Does your husband slap you around much because I feel you need it." It also accuses him of making inappropriate sexual comments and verbally assaulting her and other female employees. It also says, even though Dempsey was the storm water clerk, she was "not allowed to speak in the storm water meetings."
Mt. Juliet Police Lt. Michael Mullins found scant wrongdoing in his investigation on behalf of the city, but his report filed in April seems to indicate Dempsey was not the only employee who found Wright's conduct offensive.
" … Multiple employees find Mr. Wright's communication skills and management style to be offensive in nature," the investigation report said. "I believe … Mr. Wright is aware … due to his statement that the way he talks may be interpreted as abusive but does not mean to be and he may be intimidating but it is not intentional. Of these individuals many believe that with minor corrective measures this situation can be taken care of."
Mt. Juliet City Manager Rob Shearer said he had not yet seen the lawsuit.
"Without having seen the suit, I really couldn't comment," Shearer said.
Dempsey's attorney Tracey Robinson-Coffee maintains the city did nothing to alleviate the situation.
"What we are claiming is that the city, along with its employee, Mr. Hatton Wright, caused a hostile and sexist work environment in which my client made several complaints," Robinson-Coffee said.
He added the evidence "clearly indicates there was a hostile work environment, but they chose to ignore that and basically as a result we allege that Ms. Dempsey was constructively discharged."
No court date has been set.
Staff Writer Jason Cox may be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45, or via email at email@example.com.