Parzivand Law Firm Brings Discrimination Charges Against Elected Official
Author: Catherine Dominguez
A former county employee has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack discriminated against her and several other female employees for their age and gender.
The complaint was filed with the EEOC April 10 against Montgomery County. It claims the discrimination started soon after Noack was sworn into office Jan. 1, 2013.
According to the complaint filed by Terrilynn Macarthur, she was terminated June 23, 2013, as manager of the Spring Creek Greenway Nature Center without warning after she was written up for the first time in June 2013.
Hessam Parzivand, a Houston-based attorney representing Macarthur, said the evidence points convincingly to systemic discrimination.
“After only scratching the surface of Commissioner Noack’s time in office,” he said, “allegations of discrimination and intimidation involving seven different women employed by Noack have emerged.”
Parzivand said his client was not given a specific reason for her write-up or termination, only citing a portion of the county’s employee handbook.
“It says ‘refusing to work as directed, willful neglect of duties, malingering or shrinking of duties, attempting to undermine your elected officials or department head and/or supervisor,’” he said. “They discharged her on that by it alone.”
Noack referred all questions to the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office.
County Attorney J D Lambright said the county denies all the allegations of discrimination.
“The county did not discriminate against these employees, and we intend to vigorously defend the county against all such allegations,” Lambright said.
He said the county takes all discrimination complaints seriously and prides itself on being an “equal opportunity employer.”
While the complaint outlines Macarthur’s claims, it also states three other female employees, including Becky Cottingham, who served as the director of Recycling, Reuse & Household Chemical Waste for 12 years, were “either demoted, suspended, forced to retire or fired in 2013 and 2014.”
According to Cottingham’s affidavit, she was suspended twice, in January 2013 and in February 2013, before being forced to retire after 18 years with the county after Noack made her work conditions “so unbearable.”
“He accused me of stealing dead plants from the recycling complex … changed my job duties from a primarily office job to working in the recycling yard,” Cottingham stated in the affidavit.
“Furthermore, he made me the only employee of the recycling complex who permanently did not have two consecutive days off.”
Cottingham also stated there were about 30 male full-time employees and was not aware that any of them were treated like the female employees.
An affidavit by Loretta Golden also alleges she was “forced to resign” due to a “hostile environment created by Commissioner Noack.”
“The general feeling was that Commissioner Noack is a very vengeful man who would retaliate against anybody who stood up to him,” the affidavit states.
Golden claims one female employee was forced to “retire under duress” after Noack called her names and reduced her workload. She also claimed another female employee was forced to clean despite the fact Noack had custodial services.
Parzivand said there are seven women who experienced “varying levels of harassment” by Noack. Parzivand said one of the seven is represented by another Houston-area attorney and also filed a complaint with the EEOC.
The Courier was unable to obtain that complaint before press time.
“This is a sad story, because what can you do as an employee when you are facing discrimination or harassment from an elected official,” Parzivand said. “Unlike the private sector, you can’t hope that he will get fired once you report. Your choices are to wait for three years until the end of his term and hope he resigns or doesn’t get re-elected.
“Faced with these choices, several loyal public servants have chosen the path of forced resignation.”