Former assessor employee accuses Jefferson Co. of racial discrimination

By Annie Cosby | Jan 8, 2015

A Jefferson County woman is suing over claims she was paid less by her employer based upon her race before being unlawfully terminated.

Paige Mosely filed a lawsuit Nov. 4 in the Beaumont Division of the Eastern District of Texas against Jefferson County, citing racial discrimination.

According to the complaint, Mosely,  a black woman, worked in the Jefferson County tax assessor’s office, were she was subjected to offensive comments by white co-workers, such as that Obama's "support came from blacks who just wanted a black man in office." Mosely says she raised concerns to the tax assessor, Shane Howard, about inconsistent training she was receiving from supervisors and coworkers after she made an error but Mosely assured her "if she failed [her supervisors] failed."

Mosely says she also made a complaint to her supervisor, Kathy Kellas, about the racially insensitive comments of coworkers, but while in her office, Kellas received a racist e-mail from her husband, prompting Mosely to take her complaints to Howard, who was dismissive, expressed that each employee was entitled to their own opinion and said he would talk to employees about limiting their conversations but would not tell them to discontinue. Mosely says the comments continued.

The lawsuit states that on May 11, 2013, Mosely waited on a confrontational customer, who, as he left, made a violent threat to the establishment, which Mosely relayed to Kellas. Mosely says Kellas assured her she would contact the sheriff’s department and be present the next time he appeared, but when the man returned May 28, 2013, and again became confrontational, Kellas appeared unconcerned and walked away from Mosely while she was speaking her concerns, a reaction in stark contrast to her reaction of calling the sheriff's office to intervene when a black man threatened a white clerk.

According to the lawsuit, after a June 24, 2013, incident in which Mosely was treated rudely by another employee, Howard temporarily moved her to the Port Arthur office so she could get training and to address the working environment between her and Kellas.

The lawsuit states Mosely thrived after the transfer with her new supervisor telling her she should have received a raise on her employment anniversary, and on the Sept. 16, 2013, anniversary, Mosely inquired about a raise and received a small one, based upon what Howard thought she should make.

The complaint states that when she complained about the amount, as she was never informed of any poor attendance or work ethic, the defendant referenced absenteeism, an incident in the first months of her employment when her son fell ill.

Mosely says she had taken him to the emergency room and called Kellas to request the next day off, an "unscheduled" absence for which she received a warning, although similar absences by white employees were granted without question.

According to the lawsuit, in November 2013, Mosely was transferred back to the Beaumont office, where, on March 23, she was scolded by Kellas for allegedly not working when Mosely was actually assisting another employee with a transaction. The complaint states Mosely told Terri Wuenschel, the interim tax assessor, and Susie James, chief deputy, the following day that she considered Kellas' behavior harassment in creating a hostile work environment, but Wuenschel later told Mosely her investigation found the stories of the incident inconsistent, although she never spoke with the very coworker who witnessed it, proving the supervisors were not interested in dealing with the alleged harassment.

Mosely says on April 29 she waited on a customer who reported to James that Mosely had been rude, which shocked Mosely, but James would not listen to her defense. Mosely says when she attempted to talk to Yates about it, James began to yell at her, so she excused herself from the conversation and called human resources. The HR person called her back three hours later and brought her to his office. The complaint states the HR person already had talked to Wuenschel and James about the incident and decided that "due to issues with supervisors, bad work ethic and poor attendance," her employment would be terminated.

According to the complaint, the HR person ignored Mosely's request for an explanation and repeatedly refused to discuss that this was the first time she heard of any issues from human resources. Mosely says once she was terminated, her position was filled by a white person and that her termination was retaliation for complaining about the disparate treatment she received, including being paid less than white employees performing the same job, and constitutes a violation of Title VII. The defendants are accused of racial discrimination.

Mosely seeks actual damages including back pay, reinstatement or front pay, lost benefits, costs of suit and attorney fees. She is represented by attorneys David E. Bernsen, Christine L. Stetson and Cade Bernsen of The Bernsen Law Firm in Beaumont.

Beaumont Division of the Eastern District of Texas case number: 1:14-CV-00548-RC

More News

The Record Network