Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

May 14, 2013

District denies racism claims

Greenup says no wrongdoing in second dismissal of employee

ASHLAND — The Greenup County school system has denied it terminated the employment of an African-American custodian for racially motivated reasons, or as retaliation for him filing complaints about his treatment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In its response to David Parker’s lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Ashland, the district denies any wrongdoing in its non-renewal of Parker’s employment contract for the 2010-11, maintains its decision to not rehire him was strictly performance-related and requests his claims be dismissed.

The response, filed by attorney James H. Moore III of Ashland, states the school system’s reasons for letting Parker go were “legitimate and non-discriminatory” and “related to his unsatisfactory job performance.”

In addition to the school system, Parker’s suit, filed last month, names current Superintendent Steve Hall, former Superintendent Randy Hughes and Buildings and Grounds Director Jack McCleese, Parker’s former supervisor, as defendants.

In his suit, Parker maintains his allegations of racial discrimination and retaliation were substantiated by the EEOC in July 2011, but that the district had made no attempt to settle the charges. The Department of Justice issued a notice of Parker’s right to sue in January, according to the suit.

Parker hired on with the school system in November 2007 and was assigned to Greenup County High School, the suit states, and received a satisfactory performance evaluation in the spring of 2008. Later that same year, according to the suit, he was absent from work “for a predetermined length of time” with McCleese’s approval, but subsequently terminated for “neglect of duty” associated with his supposedly approved absence. Parker filed a grievance contesting his termination, claiming it was racially motivated, and was reinstated in September 2008, according to the suit.

In its response, the district acknowledges Parker was fired and then reinstated, but maintains his reinstatement “was not based on an admission of racial motivation,” but rather upon a determination was not in compliance with the “applicable policies and procedures” of the school system.

Parker also alleges he was subject to harsh treatment in the workplace because of his race, including being called racial slurs by his co-workers. And, the district admits in its response that there was an incident where one of Parker’s white co-workers used a racial epithet within earshot of him. However, the employee who uttered the slur was reprimanded and apologized to Parker, who indicated he was satisfied with school officials’ handling of the incident, the response states.

The decision to not renew Parker’s contract was made after Parker received an unsatisfactory performance evaluation for the 2009-10 school year, according to the response. His evaluation for the previous year was “satisfactory — needs improvement,” it states.

In his suit, Parker states he received a “less-than-positive” work evaluation which he appealed, the month after he filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging on the appeal form that McCleese had unfairly evaluated him “because he has been doing everything he can to get me fired because of racism.” The district specifically denies those claims, and other allegations of racial mistreatment, in its response.

Parker also alleges McCleese’s “disparate” treatment of him escalated after Parker began dating a white woman who also worked for the school system in the fall of 2008. The district acknowledges it was aware of the relationship, but denies it was ever used as a basis for mistreating him.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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