Trial date set for former court manager suing city for discrimination

By HASKEL BURNS,

A trial date has been set in the case of Dana Coleman, a former office manager at Hattiesburg Municipal Court who is suing the city for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission violations, in particular racial harassment and discrimination.

Hattiesburg attorney Clark Hicks, who is representing Hattiesburg in the matter, said the trial will be held at 9 a.m. June 11 in the William M. Colmer Federal Building on Main Street. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett.

According to federal court documents, Coleman – who is white – claimed in 2016 she was harassed on a regular basis by the court’s African-American deputy clerks. Coleman also claims harassment by municipal clerk Faye Hicks, who also is African-American.

Documents state Hicks deliberately did not inform Coleman about staff meetings on multiple occasions, and deputy clerks would not follow Coleman’s orders or directives.

“There is also evidence that the harassment (Coleman) endured was racially motivated,” the document states. “(Faye) Hicks would refer to whites to (Coleman) as ‘your people or your folk.’

“The deputy clerks would often tell Haley Sherman, the only white deputy clerk other than (Coleman), that she was ‘too white to understand’ some things. (Coleman) also testified that (Municipal Court) Judge (Jerry) Evans told her that the deputy clerks would never respect her or listen to her because she was white.”

Coleman also produced a letter from her physician in which he stated the depression and anxiety experienced at Coleman’s job left her with a “loss of sleep, appetite and interest/motivation in her normal life activities, headaches, diarrhea and vomiting daily, etc.”

At the trial, Starrett will rule on the following claims: the hostile work environment claimed by Coleman, constructive discharge, the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against the city and the negligent infliction of emotional distress against the city.

 

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