Lamar wants former department chair dismissed from discrimination suit

David Yates Jul. 26, 2013, 3:59pm

Lamar University wants a former department chair dismissed from litigation brought by an instructor who alleges the college discriminated against her after she failed to attend a stage performance with a homosexual theme. 

As previously reported, Linda Ozmun filed suit against Lamar and Judith Sebesta, former chair of the Department of Theater and Dance, on March 26, 2012, in Jefferson County District Court.

Court records show that Lamar and Sebesta filed a plea to the jurisdiction on July 19, seeking to secure a dismissal of Sebesta because she is not Ozmun’s employer.

The plea also states that Sebesta resigned and that Ozmun is not eligible to sue for exemplary and punitive damages since Lamar is a governmental entity.

Court records further show that on May 8 an agreed scheduling order was entered, calling for the case to be mediated by Dec. 16 or go to trial on Jan. 21, 2014.

In her suit, Ozmun says that she is a faculty member of the theater department, which encompasses theater and dance. Ozmun is a dance instructor, according to the faculty pages on the Lamar University website.

According to her suit, Ozmun alleges she asked to be excused from attending a show centered on homosexuality but was threatened with disciplinary action if she failed to attend.

“Because of her religious beliefs, plaintiff failed to attend the performance and as a result she was disciplined for her religious beliefs,” the suit states. “Defendants have discriminated against plaintiff on the basis of her religious beliefs in violation of the Texas anti-discrimination laws.”

Ozmun claims the incident has created a hostile work environment and caused her to be improperly denial promotions.

She alleges the defendants acted with malice, which entitles her to exemplary damages.

Beaumont attorney Barry Bennett of Eddins & Bennett represents Ozmun.

Assistant Attorney General Lars Hagen represents Lamar.

Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court, is assigned to the case.

Case No. B192-226

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