Man accuses Long Star College System of retaliatory discharge

Annie Cosby Nov. 14, 2014, 9:52am

A Harris County man is suing over claims he was fired from his college teaching job in retaliation for complaints about administration.

Gordon Carruth filed a lawsuit Oct. 9 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas against Lone Star College System, citing retaliation.

According to the complaint, Carruth taught computer information technology courses at the Montgomery campus for nearly 20 years, during which time he received numerous awards and was elected president of the Faculty Senate.

The complaint states each Lone Star teacher was evaluated every two years before another two-year employment contract was signed, and he signed a new, two-year contract in August 2012.

The college removed a respected dean of a division of the college without notice in February 2012, according to the lawsuit, and Carruth openly spoke out against this decision and participated in the Faculty Senate's letter requesting shared governance with administrators.

The complaint states vice president of instruction Ann Kirch, who was known for an abrasive style of communicating, was one of the persons responsible for numerous decisions with which the faculty disagreed. Carruth says he had a series of meetings with Kirch, one of which he recorded in order to prove the profane language she used, as well as instances of her calling him an "idiot," "monkey" and "stupid."

According to the lawsuit, Carruth and the faculty senate passed a resolution that faculty should not have to endure "intimidation" by administration, and on April 20, 2012, the college president had a meeting with Carruth, during which he refused to discuss Kirch's inappropriate actions, but wanted to know who advised Carruth to make an audio recording of his meeting with Kirch.

According to the lawsuit, Carruth and several other professors filed grievances with the college about Kirch, but an outside investigator assigned to investigate the complaints was biased and did not thoroughly investigate anything, and the grievances were dismissed, as well as Carruth's appeal.

The complaint states, on Aug. 23, 2012, the Faculty Senate passed a vote of "no confidence" against Kirch, and on Sept. 10, 2012, as a retaliatory measure, she alleged that Carruth and others had discriminated against her based on her gender.

On Sept. 21, 2012, Carruth filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for unlawful discrimination and retaliation, but in an Oct. 8, 2012, memorandum, the outside investigator wrote that it was "highly probable" Carruth had discriminated against Kirch based on her gender, according to Carruth's complaint.

Carruth says in his lawsuit that he was removed from a class he was teaching on Oct. 9, 2012, and fired based upon the false premise that his unlawful and unethical conduct created a hostile work environment for Kirch. The college gave him 30 minutes to leave under threat of arrest, and he was observed by a police officer while packing his belongings, forcing him to leave without all of his things.

Carruth says the college has still not returned his personal belongings, and another of the professors who filed a grievance against Kirch was transferred to another campus, where his subject is not taught. The complaint states his appeal to this transfer was turned down, and he was forced to resign.

The defendant is accused of unethical retaliation, violation of the due process clause, breach of contract, and conversion. Carruth is seeking damages, reinstatement, interest, back pay and lost benefits, as well as attorney fees, and court costs.

He is being represented by attorneys David M. Minces and Francisco J. Caycedo of Minces PLLC in Houston.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas case number: 4:14-cv-02882

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