Two former employees of the Bay-Waveland School District on Oct. 3 filed separate complaints in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi claiming that during their employment, they were subjected to “race discrimination, racial harassment, and retaliation in violation of Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).”
Along with the Bay-Waveland School District, Dino Tenorio and Charles Schwartz are also named as defendants.
In the first complaint, plaintiff Lilia Flores-Martinez, a hispanic female and resident of Ocean Springs, said she was employed by the BWSD as a custodial employee from January 2018 until April 23, 2019. She was assigned to Bay-Waveland Middle School.
According to the complaint, Flores-Martinez filed a charge of employment discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission on July 11, 2019 in which she said that “the defendant has subjected her to race discrimination, race harassment, sexual harassment, national origin discrimination, national origin harassment, and retaliation in violation of Title VII.”
Flores-Martinez received a right-to-sue notice from the EEOC for the defendant, the complaint states.
Flores-Martinez alleges in the complaint that onsite supervisor, “Schwartz (a white male) began to harass plaintiff and other employees.”
The complaint alleges that Schwartz “repeatedly made inappropriate and offensive comments regarding Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans” and “sexually inappropriate and offensive remarks to and about plaintiff, other employees, teachers, and students.”
“Schwartz repeatedly told plaintiff she should go back to Mexico,” the complaint states. “Schwartz also made remarks to plaintiff about the wall being built across the U.S.-Mexico border, and asked her how she would get back over the border. He would often make comments to her about being deported.”
The complaint states that the plaintiff objected to and complained about Schwartz’s behavior.
The complaint alleges that “Schwartz also made numerous sexually offensive comments, and propositions, which were directed to and about plaintiff, as well as other females, including teachers, staff and, middle school girls.”
“The sexual harassment by plaintiff’s supervisor, Schwartz, included but was not limited to, ‘I know you want all of this’ and ‘you know you want me,’’’ the complaint states. “Telling a co-worker he was going to ‘get with’ plaintiff sexually, making sexual comments about female middle school students, including the principal’s daughter, engaging in sexual comments and harassing conduct toward teachers and staff, referring to Principal Seymour as a ‘b*tch’ and referring to another female custodian as ‘fat, lazy, and stupid.”’
The complaint alleges that school officials told the plaintiff to come to them with problems, not Kelly Services and that Schwartz had “warned employees not to complain about any issues with him or the job or there would be trouble for the complaining employee.”
In April 2019, plaintiff and other custodians went to the BWMS Principal Jennifer Seymour to complain of the harassment, the complaint states, who asked for statements and said she would take them to BWSD Superintendent Sandra Reed.
The complaint states that Seymour assured plaintiff and other employees that they would not lose their jobs.
After providing statements, the complaint states that plaintiff met with Seymour and maintenance supervisor Tenorio and explained the harassment.
The complaint alleges that Tenorio told plaintiff not to contact Kelly Services and that she did not need to worry about her job.
The next day, the complaint states that “Schwartz made a sarcastic comment to a maintenance employee in front of plaintiff, regarding her complaints.”
Tenorio then met with plaintiff and other custodians to discuss the issues with Schwartz, the complaint states.
“Tenorio said that Schwartz was just joking around,” the complaint states. “And people could not take his jokes,” to which the plaintiff objected and said that they were “not jokes” and “extremely offensive.”
“Plaintiff and other employees later found out that other employees had made previous complaints to defendants about harassing, offensive, and discriminatory behavior by Schwartz, and nothing had been done to Schwartz for this behavior,” the complaint states.
The complaint states that Flores-Martinez was terminated on or about April 23, 2019 and was told “she was being let go for missing a day of work. Plaintiff’s absence has been pre-approved by Tenorio.”
The complaint alleges that her termination was “further harassment and in retaliation for her complaints.”
“Upon information and belief, Schwartz had a pattern and practice of harassing employees, including sexual and racial harassment and previous complaints had been made about his behavior,” the complaint states. “However, no corrective action was taken and the conduct continued.”
Flores-Martinez is seeking a declaratory judgement as well as compensatory, punitive, and/or nominal damages, back pay (plus interest), reinstatement and/or front pay, the complaint states, as well as attorneys’ fees and expenses.
The second complaint was filed by former employee Quantrome Ray, an African-American male and resident of Pascagoula.
According to the complaint, he was employed by the BWSD from February 2019 until April 23, 2019.
On June 24, Ray filed a charge of employment discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and received a right-to-sue notice, the complaint states.
Ray was assigned to work at Bay Middle School as a custodial employee by Kelly Services.
“After plaintiff’s employment began, onsite supervisor Charles Schwartz (white male) began to harass plaintiff and other employees,” the complaint states. “Schwartz asked plaintiff if he wanted to hear a ‘black joke.’ Plaintiff told him ‘no,’ however, Schwartz went ahead and told him the joke anyway, which had a punch line of ’N*****, N*****, N*****.’ Schwartz repeatedly referred to plaintiff as ‘colored’ and ‘boy.’ Plaintiff told Schwartz to refer to him by his name, however, he continuously called plaintiff ‘colored’ and ‘boy.’’’
The complaint states that plaintiff and other employees took their complaints to BWMS principal Jennifer Seymour in April 2019, the complaint states, and employees were told by school officials to not contact Kelly Services.
Ray and his co-workers complained about Schwartz’s “harassing behavior, detailing the racial, sexual, and national comments origin and behavior,” the complaint alleges.
Ray and his co-workers provided written statements and also met with Tenorio, who informed plaintiff to not report the complaints to Kelly Services, the complaint states.
“Tenorio said that Schwartz was ‘not a bad guy,’ and that he ‘was only joking,’’’ the complaint states. “Tenorio also made a reference that plaintiff and his co-workers did ‘not know how to take a joke.’’
The complaint alleges that another employee also complained that the things Schwartz said were “offensive and discriminatory.”
According to the complaint, Ray’s wife was schedule for knee surgery and he “received approval from Tenorio to be off the day of the surgery so that he could drive her home following surgery.”
The complaint alleges that co-workers witnessed Tenorio approve the time off, which was April 23. It further states that the day off was marked on the work calendar and approved.
“Plaintiff was called the same day from Kelly Services and told that Tenorio was terminating his employment,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff told Kelly Services that he had taken the day off and it had been previously approved by Tenorio and that his termination was in retaliation for his complaints. Plaintiff also told Kelly Services of the harassing behavior by Schwartz, of the complaint of harassment, and that he was told Seymour and the district would handle it. However, no corrective action was taken, and plaintiff was terminated. Plaintiff’s termination was further harassment and in retaliation for his complaints. Plaintiff never heard back from defendant regarding the harassment, his termination, and his complaints. Further, defendant failed to take corrective or remedial action.”
Ray is seeking a declaratory judgement, a permanent injunction enjoining defendants, defendants’ agents, successors, employees, attorneys, and those action in concert with defendants and on defendants’ behalf from continuing to violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the complaint states. He is also seeking compensatory, punitive, and/or nominal damages, back-pay (plus interest), reinstatement, and/or front pay, attorneys’ fee and expenses.
BWSD attorney Ronnie Artigues on Tuesday said that the district has not been served any litigation at this time and will be unable to comment on pending litigation.
Artigues added that district is aware of the EEOC complaint.