A discrimination lawsuit against Jefferson City Public Schools was dismissed in federal court Tuesday — the same day a new lawsuit was filed against the school district in Cole County Circuit Court.
Robert Jones had filed a lawsuit against JCPS in March 2018 in the U.S. District Court for Western Missouri. Jones is an E20/20 supervisor at Jefferson City High School, and his basic allegation was that he should have been paid as a teacher instead of as a non-certified staff member.
His suit alleged JCPS had violated the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 by not paying him a wage equal to female teachers' at the high school when his job responsibilities were similar to theirs.
A federal judge disagreed and ruled in support of a motion for summary judgment filed by JCPS attorneys that Jones' claim did not have merit.
Included in U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey's order for dismissal:
"Because the E20/20 Superivisor position is a non-certified position, it has its own salary schedule, and does not provide for compensation on a teacher salary schedule."
Jones does not perform many of the duties a teacher would. Although he "takes and reports attendance — a task that aides are authorized to perform — and monitors student behavior, provides feedback and proctors exams and quizzes" — and has a teaching certificate — "Mr. Jones is not the only individual employed by JCPS who has a teaching certificate but is paid as a non-certified staff member."
"Mr. Jones stated that the basis of his comparison with regard to duties and salary in his complaint was all female teachers at Jefferson City High School. However, Mr. Jones concedes that the teachers being paid more than him include both males and females. JCPS teachers have a separate salary schedule, and the pay scale is the same for males and females In other words, (Jones) has admitted that teachers are paid more than he is, regardless of gender."
Jones had asked for a jury trial and $300,000 in damages, plus legal costs including attorneys' fees and punitive damages.
He told the News Tribune on Wednesday that he cannot afford to re-file the suit and that, while he does not have exact plans, he probably will not work for JCPS after this school year.
Jones added that the court's ruling invalidates Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary policies that should have supported his claim and that DESE is not doing its job of enforcing its own policies.
"All I really wanted was to have my day in court," Jones said.
JCPS Director of Communications Ryan Burns shared a statement from the district Wednesday: "While we respect the right of individuals to assert themselves via legal action, we always felt Mr. Jones' claim was without merit and are pleased that the court agreed with our position."
JCPS reported late last month that the district had not spent any money on Jones' case because it has been covered by insurance. JCPS reported all of its legal fees with the Schreimann, Rackers & Francka LLC law firm for six of the nine lawsuits filed against the district since 2014 have been covered by insurance.
However, the district added, the number of lawsuits filed against it have caused its insurance premiums and deductibles to increase.
JCPS was represented in Jones' case by Chris Rackers and Ryan Bertels of Schreimann, Rackers & Francka. Jones was represented by attorney R. Mark Nasteff Jr. of Liberty.
Also Tuesday, former Lewis and Clark Middle School principal Sherri Thomas filed a lawsuit against JCPS in Cole County court alleging she had no choice but to leave the district because of an alleged hostile work environment and retaliation based on age, race and sex, as well as discrimination based on age.
With the dismissal of Jones' case, Thomas's lawsuit is the sixth active lawsuit against JCPS.
The district reported last month it has spent more than $1.1 million on lawsuits and settlements since former teacher Karen Ray's lawsuit was filed in 2014 — but that the full costs covered by insurance have totaled almost $2.1 million.