June 8, 2019
By Tribune Staff
On May 31, a jury found in favor of the Lee’s Summit School District in a lawsuit filed in Jackson County by a former district employee.
Former district employee Brandi Markle filed the lawsuit nearly five years ago on June 24, 2015, after filing a Charge of Discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) in June 2014—asserting claims of discrimination based on sex, sexual harassment, disability, retaliation and a hostile work environment.
Markle worked for the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District off and on since graduating from high school in various entry-level positions. In January 2013, Markle internally applied for and was hired to the position of Administrative Assistant to the Technology Department. She reported to Dr. Amy Gates, Executive Director of Technology, and supported the leadership of the Technology Department, which, at the time of her employment, included Tony Dixon (Coordinator of Technology Support) among others.
The petition included four counts of discrimination against the school district arising under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA).
Count 1—Sex Discrimination/Sexual Harassment. According to the lawsuit, Markle asserted Dixon made inappropriate comments to her.
Count 2—Disability Discrimination. Markle claimed she was discriminated against for having high blood pressure.
Count III—Hostile Work Environment Due to Sex and Disability. Markle claimed that the District made her working environment intolerable for her due to her gender and high blood pressure.
Count IV—Retaliation. Markle asserted that she made complaints to the District and was retaliated against and ultimately terminated as a consequence.
During the two-week jury trial, various individuals testified on behalf of Markle and the District.
Ultimately, with 11 out of 12 jurors agreeing, the jury found for the District—a rarity in Jackson County employment discrimination trials according to the District’s trial attorney Remington Smith, Ensz & Jester, P.C. Smith added “I believe the jury found Mrs. Markle’s story not to be credible given inconsistencies in her sworn testimony and other evidence of her inconsistent statements and activities.”
Instead, Smith felt, “the jury believed, as the District argued, that Mrs. Markle was terminated for job abandonment after not reporting to work for more than two weeks where she was asked to return following a third party’s determination that, for more than a month, she had been healthy enough to work and disqualified for Short Term Medical Leave.”