PAISD seeks summary judgment in discrimination case

David Yates Dec. 21, 2009, 12:53pm

After two years of litigation, the Port Arthur Independent School District is now seeking to have an age discrimination suit brought by a former teacher dismissed.

As the Southeast Texas Record reported in April 2007, Gary Phillips sued PAISD alleging the district fired him due to his age.

According to his suit, Phillips is a white male over the age of 40 who was employed with PAISD for 23 years, and whose years of service with the district were "marked by outstanding reviews and almost perfect attendance."

"Despite his unique background, training and expertise, his employer terminated him because of his age in violation of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act," the petition states. "Mr. Phillips was terminated despite being qualified to assume another position at the time of the discharge."

However, in its motion for summary judgment, PAISD argues there is no evidence of discrimination and that it was only following the recommendations made by an independent investigation of its workforce.

PAISD argues that its governing body was thrown into chaos following Hurricane Rita's rampage in 2005. In January 2006, the school board unanimously adopted a resolution declaring a need for a reduction in work force for the 2006-2007 school year, and hired individuals to examine its staffing.

On April 3, 2006, the board voted to accept the investigators' recommendations and eliminated Phillips' position, along with 10 other non-teaching positions, court papers say. ��

"There is no evidence of the essential elements of plaintiff's cause of action against PAISD for violations of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act," the district's motion states. "A reduction in force is a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for an employee's termination."

Along with his suit, Phillips filed a sworn charge of discrimination with the Texas Workforce Commission civil rights division and was issued a right to sue letter on Feb. 26, 2007.

Phillips seeks compensatory damages for past lost wages and benefits, future pecuniary losses, past and future emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of wages and benefits, loss of earning capacity and other past and future nonpecuniary losses.

Additionally, he alleges that the district acted with malice or reckless disregard to his protected rights and therefore the district is liable for exemplary or punitive damages.

Phillips is represented by attorney Dru Montgomery of Beaumont.

The district is represented in part by Melody Chappell, attorney for the Wells, Peyton, Greenberg & Hunt law firm.

Case No. E179-149

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