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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

School employee claims termination due to reporting fire hazards

By Melody Dareing | Jun 11, 2014

A veteran worker of a school system is suing on allegations that she was fired for calling the fire department about an unsafe situation in a warehouse.

LaWonda Renee Drake filed a lawsuit June 3 in the Jefferson County District Court against Port Arthur Independent School District, citing retaliatory firing.  

The lawsuit states Drake has worked in various positions within the school system since 1989 and was transferred to a warehouse to work as a shipping and receiving clerk on Sept. 10.

According to the suit, Drake claims she smelled a gas odor in October and attempted to report it to her supervisor but couldn’t reach him, so she reported it to the maintenance department.

It happened again in November and again she couldn’t reach her supervisor, so Drake reported it to the school superintendent, along with what she alleges were other potential fire and safety violations such as no smoke alarms or sprinkler system and inaccessible fire extinguishers, the complaint said.

Her supervisor allegedly told her not to contact the superintendent again without his permission, the suit states. The same situation occurred again in February and the supervisor could not be reached, so Drake called the Port Arthur Fire Department, according to the complaint.

During an internal investigation, Drake was asked if she called the Fire Marshall and she stated she did not. She was terminated March 6, on grounds she lied about calling the Fire Marshall, the complaint states.

Drake is seeking damages in excess of $1 million.

She is being represented by private attorney Solomon Morrow of Houston.

Jefferson County District Court Case No. A195-760

This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at the Jefferson County District Court. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt, and it represents only one side of the story.

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