A former high school counselor is suing the Bastrop Independent School District, saying the district discriminated against and harassed her on the basis of her race, age and disability, among other reasons.
The alleged discrimination in employment and harassment against Charlene Emanuel — ex-wife of former BISD Superintendent Roderick Emanuel — was detailed in a 16-page complaint filed July 5 in U.S. District Court Western District of Texas in Austin.
The complaint states that the district violated Emanuel’s rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the basis of her race, color, national origin, age and disability. In the suit, Emanuel, who is representing herself, asks to be reimbursed for back pay and for $300,000 in damages.
In the lawsuit, Emanuel says the BISD Board of Trustees used social media to harass her, “creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive working environment,” which “adversely affected the terms, conditions and privileges of (Emanuel’s) employment.”
In one example of alleged use of social media to harass her, Emanuel states in her lawsuit that BISD Trustee James Allen used his State Farm Insurance Company email to work against her, but she did not provide specific emails; she also claims BISD Trustee John Eaton violated her HIPAA rights in a 2009 interview with local media in which he said Roderick Emanuel had not been pressured into resigning, but rather had resigned because of her ovarian cancer diagnosis.
“The discriminatory and unethical practices practiced by James Allen, John Eaton and other school board members to undermine Superintendent Roderick Emanuel became a catalyst by some in the school district and community to openly discriminate, harass and create a hostile work environment which became one of the causes that led to the dissolution of (the Emanuels’ marriage),” the lawsuit alleges.
Emanuel also alleges she was subjected to numerous instances of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and defamation since April 2009, which she says continue to occur today. The incidents she refers to in the lawsuit range from allegedly being verbally attacked by a coworker and being denied required training opportunities to retaliation in the form of a demotion for speaking out against the alleged discriminatory practices she says were being leveled against her.
In the lawsuit, Charlene Emanuel also alleges BHS Principal Celina Estrada-Thomas insisted she perform duties she could not perform due to a knee injury and that she was eventually demoted to a part-time elementary school counselor rotating to two district elementary school campuses, effective Nov. 30, 2011.
When asked for comment, BISD director of communications Donald Williams said the district cannot comment on pending litigation.
“Bastrop ISD recently became aware of the lawsuit filed by Charlene Emanuel with the United States District Court-Western District of Texas. However, due to the pending litigation regarding this case we are unable to make any additional comments,” Williams said in a statement issued by the district.
A phone call to Charlene Emanuel was not immediately returned.