Derek Boyd says harassment against him intensified after a story about his situation ran in Dallas Voice while nurses who harassed him kept their jobs
A Collin County corrections officer has lost his job after publicly accusing two nurses working at the jail of harassing him, and accusing his immediate supervisor of retaliation.
Derek Boyd also said that retaliation against him didn’t just continue, it intensified after a story appeared in the June 3 issue of Dallas Voice about his situation and the fact that he had filed suit against his supervisor, Christopher Perepiczka, and Collin County Sheriff Terry Box.
Boyd’s original lawsuit, filed in May, was dismissed because of procedural errors. But he has retained a new attorney who has filed the case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The new attorney is waiting for the EEOC to conclude its investigation before requesting a “permission to sue” letter.
Boyd said the conflict began in March when he heard two nurses at the Collin County jail make derogatory remarks about a male inmate with purple and pink hair. He said the nurses said the inmate should be “with the other faggots in pod D1,” then continued to discuss their dislike of “faggots” in front of Boyd.
Boyd also said that after he spoke to the two nurses privately, letting them know he found their statements offensive and inappropriate, one of two stopped making the comments. The second nurse, however, responded by calling Boyd a faggot, he said.
The next day, Boyd said, he spoke to the jail’s head nurse, who said she’d advise nurses in the department to be careful of their statements on the job.
But the nurse that called Boyd a faggot began to harass him in response to his complaint to her supervisor, he said.
Boyd said when he called the head nurse’s office again, she told him that the nurse couldn’t be replaced, and the nurse responded by escalating the situation.
In his original lawsuit, Boyd accused the offending nurse of intentionally creating a hostile and unsafe environment in his pod “by deliberately disobeying safety orders, telling Officer Boyd she does not have to listen to him, laughing at him, calling him derogatory names, and entirely undermining his authority in the presence of potentially violent or sexually aggressive inmates.”
Boyd said he was subjected to a lie detector test while the nurses, who work for a private contractor, were not.
Boyd has since lost his job, he said, but the nurses continue to work at the jail. He said he was told the internal investigation into the case was “unable to unequivocally establish whether such comments were made,” even though Boyd passed his polygraph test.
In his initial interview with Dallas Voice, Boyd said retaliation against him had become so severe he was unable to perform his duties. But instead of taking any action against the nurses, Boyd said his supervisor, Perepiczka, began harassing him filing a complaint. Boyd said the harassment left him in a dangerous situation, for example, when he’d radio for help from his pod in the county jail and get no response.
Boyd noted that Collin County added protections against discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation to its policies in 2015. But the policy change didn’t actually protect him.
After the story ran in Dallas Voice, Boyd said, the retaliation against him worsened. He said he was required to take a class in sexual harassment, while the nurses who harassed him were not. He also said that he was targeted by several investigations, including one instance in which he was interrogated in the prisoner interrogation room. Again, the nurses who began the harassment were not questioned, Boyd said.
“After every investigation, no disciplinary action was taken against me,” Boyd said, although he was written up for was being one minute late on one occasion.
“In the weeks after the suit was filed, the behaviors of Collin County continued and escalated, which led to a medical diagnosis,” his attorney said.
Boyd said his family doctor suggested he find a new job instead of continuing to work in the toxic environment at the Collin County jail. But before he could resign, he received two letters from his health insurance company, dated June 30, about applying for COBRA. The first, printed July 9, said Boyd was no longer eligible for health insurance through his employer because he was terminated. The second, also dated June 30 but printed Aug. 3, says his ineligibility for coverage is because of a reduction in hours.
On his license to serve as a corrections officer, the date of termination is July 14 not June 30. Boyd’s attorney’s noted the inconsistencies in claims by Collin County.
Boyd applied for unemployment insurance. He was turned down on Aug. 4, because, county officials claimed, he “didn’t make a reasonable effort to protect your job while you were out due to illness.” But without appealing the decision himself, he received a call on Aug. 5 that it was being reviewed and on Aug. 8 was told he would receive unemployment benefits.
According to documents from the Texas Workforce Commission, Boyd said, “Our investigation shows you quit your job for cause,” because his family doctor told him that reporting to work would be detrimental to his health. Therefore, “We will bill your employer’s account” for his unemployment benefits.
Boyd’s attorney said he’s going to see what the EEOC discovery process finds in this case before taking the next step toward suing Collin County. He said he believes the EEOC investigation will turn up a number of inconsistencies such as the ones related to Boyd’s COBRA benefits.
Meanwhile, while Boyd is out of work, the nurses whose harassment against him initiated the problems have had the IDs allowing them entrance to the jail revoked by county officials. They continue, however, to be employed by Southwest Correctional Medical Group, Inc., which has reassigned them to a jail facility elsewhere.
To help with his legal and personal expenses since he lost his job, Boyd set up a GoFundMe page.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2016.
CORRECTION: There was a voluntary dismissal without prejudice of the restraining order filed by Boyd’s original attorney.