DALLAS, April 20, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Today former Cleburne Athletic Director Pam Lea filed a million dollar discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the Cleburne Independent School District. The lawsuit is the culmination of more than a year’s worth of wrangling between Lea and the district over her abrupt demotion from her position as Cleburne’s Athletic Director.
“This lawsuit aims to show precisely how Cleburne ISD superintendent Kyle Heath blatantly discriminated against Pam Lea because of her age and sex,” said Lea’s attorney, Matthew Scott with the Dallas employment firm of Scott | Perez LLP. “If you look at the experience and qualifications of Pam Lea alongside the man who was Kyle Heath’s hand-picked replacement, it is more than obvious that Pam Lea was the far more qualified candidate for the position of AD.”
The legal saga started with Lea’s resignation from the position in early April 2015. Almost immediately after she resigned, she petitioned the school board to rescind her resignation, and alleged Heath forced Lea to either resign or be fired. While Heath actively opposed Lea’s reinstatement, the Board sided with Lea and, by a vote of 7-0, allowed her to rescind her resignation. Despite this, Heath demoted Lea to the Social Studies/Physical Education/and Health Coordinator. One month later, in May 2015, Heath hired Mark Walker to be the new Athletic Director.
Lea filed a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June 2015, alleging her age and gender were the reasons for her demotion. At the time Heath demoted Lea, she was 65 years old; Walker was 46 years old at the time he was hired as her replacement.
In her state court lawsuit, Lea sets out, in side-by-side detail, the differences between her experience and qualifications compared to those possessed by Walker. They include Lea’s three years as an athletic director to Walker’s having no prior experience as a head athletic director, Lea’s 14 years’ experience as an assistant athletic director to Walker’s 4 years of similar experience, and Lea’s combined 33 years’ experience as a head or assistant coach at the high school, junior college, and Division I college level, to Walker’s 20 years of coaching experience, all at the high school level. One of the more scathing allegations in the lawsuit is Lea’s claim that Walker did not have the credentials required by Cleburne’s own position description for the athletic director position; Lea alleges “the position description called for applicants to have a physical education endorsement and a valid Principal/Mid-Management SBEC Certification, something Walker did not have at the time Heath hired him to replace” Lea (who claims she held both).
“We’re confident that when the jury hears and sees all the evidence, including the side-by-side comparison of Pam Lea’s qualifications to those of her replacement, it will reach the conclusion that Heath discriminated against Pam because of her age and gender,” Scott said. “There is simply no other explanation for Pam’s treatment. Heath destroyed Pam’s exemplary career just when she had reached the position she had worked so long to attain. Why? Because she was an older woman, and could never be part of Heath’s good-old-boys club.”
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