Lamar seeks dismissal from dance instructor's religious discrimination suit

David Yates Dec. 24, 2013, 12:17pm

Lamar University has filed a plea to the jurisdiction in 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 filed a plea to the jurisdiction on Nov. 15, arguing that it is a governmental entity with immunity. 

The plea also asserts Ozmun failed to exhaust her administrative remedies.

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 that for religious reasons she asked to be excused from attending a theater performance dealing with the actor's homosexuality, but claims she 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 denied 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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