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UPDATED: JCPS withdraws attempts to prevent 2 discrimination lawsuits

UPDATED: JCPS withdraws attempts to prevent 2 discrimination lawsuits

September 21st, 2017 by Phillip Sitter in Local News

Jefferson City Public Schools (JCPS)

Jefferson City Public Schools has voluntarily dismissed the lawsuits it filed March 23 against the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and two district employees who filed suit against the school district for discrimination.

The district's suits asked the courts to force the Missouri Human Rights Commission to take back its permission allowing the two district employees to sue.

Those employees' suits against the school district remain active.

Gretchen Guitard filed her suit against the district March 31. Guitard was the director of curriculum and staff services, a position that no longer exists. She left the district at the end of the 2016-17 school year to become the superintendent of Jamestown-based Moniteau County C-1 School District.

Tammy Ferry filed her suit April 10. Ferry was still listed Thursday on the district's website as an instructional technology coordinator at the Dix Road Education Center.

The women allege district officials discriminated against them based on retaliation and gender, which created a hostile work environment that prevented them from performing their duties.

A separate Aug. 22 ruling of the Supreme Court of Missouri prompted the dismissals of the district's efforts to undermine the two employees' authorization to sue.

The court in the combined ruling on the Tivol Plaza and Caesar's Entertainment cases held the state's Human Rights Commission was not required to first determine whether a complaint of discrimination was filed in a timely manner before the commission had the authority to issue a right-to-sue letter.

The defeated argument was also the basis of the district's pair of suits against the commission.

The dismissals were filed Tuesday by attorney Ryan Bertels of the Schreimann, Rackers and Francka law firm, which has represented the district in other cases.

The two-sentence dismissals state all parties are to bear their own costs from the litigation in the suits.

Dennis E. Egan, one of the counselors representing Ferry and Guitard, said Thursday the dismissals were "good news for us," and added he had been confident the state's Supreme Court would rule in their favor.

Egan, of Kansas City, specializes in employment law. He was also the attorney of Karen Ray and Laura Cooper, two former JCPS employees who previously sued the district on the grounds of discrimination.

Ray won her suit in May 2016 and received $225,000 in punitive damages, plus attorneys' fees and $24,000 in damages. An out-of-court settlement later that year won Cooper $255,000.

Without the district's suits against the Human Rights Commission to contend with, Egan said it was "full steam ahead" on Ferry and Guitard's suits. "There's nothing to hold us back," he added.

"The district is committed to providing a lawful environment for everyone — teachers, administrators and students. We absolutely deny the allegations and will vigorously defend the district in both cases," attorney Chris Rackers of Schreimann, Rackers and Francka told the News Tribune via email in April.

Neither Ferry nor Guitard's suits had any scheduled hearings as of Thursday.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

Jefferson City Public Schools has voluntarily dismissed the lawsuits it filed March 23 against the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and two district employees who filed suit against the school district for discrimination.

The dismissals were filed Tuesday by attorney Ryan Bertels of the Schreimann, Rackers and Francka law firm, which has represented the district in other cases.

Those employees' suits against the school district remain active.

The two-sentence dismissals state only that all parties are to bear their own costs from the litigation in the suits.

The district's suits asked the courts to force the Missouri Human Rights Commission to take back its permission for the two district employees to sue.

It's not immediately clear what the dismissals mean for the future of those suits.

Gretchen Guitard filed her suit against the district March 31. Guitard was the the director of curriculum and staff services, a position which no longer exists. She left the district at the end of the 2016-17 school year to become the superintendent of Jamestown-based Moniteau County C-1 School District.

Tammy Ferry filed her suit April 10. Ferry was still listed Thursday on the district's website as an instructional technology coordinator at the Dix Road Education Center.

The women allege in their suits that district officials discriminated against them based on retaliation and gender, which created a hostile work environment that prevented them from performing their duties.