On-the-job bullying

Male guard in private prison charges employer with sexual harassment

Isaiah-Smith

Isaiah Smith

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Isaiah Smith is suing his former employer, Management & Training Corporation, for sex discrimination.

MTC is a Utah-based corporation that operates for-profit prisons, including one in Bridgeport, northwest of Fort Worth, where Smith was employed.
Smith said the bullying began from the day he started the job. Although he never told anyone he was gay, he said they assumed it from his mannerisms but he described the harassment as “non-stop.”

“It was like hell,” he said.

In June 2014, Smith began his on-the-job training where he was paired for training with Blake Wortman.

According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Wortman “routinely and habitually inquired about Plaintiff Smith’s homosexual lifestyle, inquired and speculated about his sexual activities aloud, and compared [and] contrasted their own sexual activities with those which they imagined Plaintiff Smith might engage in as a homosexual male.”

Smith was 19 years old at the time.

Smith complained about the harassment to Wortman’s supervisor, Pamela Galloway. Her advice was to “man up” and “act like a man.”

A female nurse at the facility witnessed Wortman’s behavior and reported that she was being subjected to a sexually hostile work environment as well. Her complaint was promptly investigated and action taken.

Both Smith and Wortman were called into the supervisor’s office. Wortman took full responsibility for it, admitting he had engaged in inappropriate behavior toward the nurse and that Smith hadn’t used any inappropriate language. However, both Wortman and Smith were warned against such behavior.

Smith’s attorney, Michael Hindman, described him as baffled that a complaint by a female employee of sexually hostile work environment was handled immediately while his repeated complaints were ignored. When he requested to be paired with someone other than Wortman, he was told further complaints would result in his termination.

Through the end of his training, Smith was tormented. Officers joked he walked “in a feminine way,” that he was flirting with inmates and was going to raped.

When he completed his training, he was assigned to “D Card,” where the harassment continued. Fellow employees said he was not man enough to do his job because he is gay.

His supervisor responded to complaints by preventing Smith from doing certain duties. Among them were strip searches, because that would make the inmates uncomfortable.

His attorney said that if he was unable to perform certain duties, there’s no chance for advancement.

“He’ll be relegated to the bottom of the barrel,” Hindman said.

When he complained, the response was that being gay was the problem, not the sexual harassment.

Smith was threatened that he would be terminated if an inmate complained he witnessed Smith “licking his lips.” Smith assumed that meant his supervisor thought he couldn’t do his job because he is gay and would automatically be attracted to every inmate in prison.

When his supervisor refused to put an end to the harassment, Smith requested a meeting with the warden, Robert Treon. Instead of taking any action, Treon dismissed the complaint as “guy talk.”

Smith decided at this point he could no longer work under these conditions. He told his supervisor he wouldn’t return to work until he could be assured the verbal harassment and retaliation for making complaints stopped.

He requested a transfer and was denied. Instead, he was placed on unpaid leave.

After several weeks, MTC contacted Smith that they determined he had been subjected to a hostile work environment under Wortman, but that issue was resolved and they didn’t believe the current complaints.

Since he couldn’t agree with the conclusion, Smith was discharged.

The case is very similar to that of Derek Boyd, a Collin County prison guard whose story appeared in last week’s Dallas Voice. Smith was harassed to the point of his life being put in danger when other guards wouldn’t respond to Boyd’s calls for backup help after months of harassment based on his sexual orientation.

One difference in the case is that Boyd worked for a public employer, while Smith worked for a private company. That shouldn’t make a difference in eligibility for damages under Title VII.

“In creating and/or allowing a sexually hostile work environment to go without remedy in spite of repeated complaints by Plaintiff, Defendant MTC’s conduct constitutes discrimination because of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Hindman wrote in Smith’s lawsuit.

Both suits quote the U.S. Supreme Court case Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, a unanimous opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia that concludes that sex discrimination consisting of same-sex sexual harassment, while not the original intent of legislators who wrote the law, is actionable under Title VII.

In the case Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, held that discriminatory employment practices that are based on gender-stereotyping is discrimination “because of . . . sex,” and covered by Title VII.

Smith is requesting reinstatement, back pay, compensation for lost benefits, emotional distress, pain and suffering, exemplary damages, attorney’s fees, costs including expert witness fees and “Such other and further relief to which Plaintiff may be entitled.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 19, 2016.

 

—  David Taffet

‘So, what’s it like being a delegate to the Democratic National Convention?’

A gay delegate from Dallas talks about his experience in Philadelphia

President-Obama-addresses-the-Convention

Looking out at the convention floor from the vantage point of the Texas delegation, above. Sheriff Lupe Valdez addressed the DNC, below. (Photos courtesy of Jay Narey)

Jay Narey
Special Contributor

I am back in Dallas after attending the recent Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as a delegate for Hillary Clinton, representing Texas Senate District 16 — roughly the entire northern half of Dallas County. Upon finding out I was a national delegate, people began asking me: “How do you become a national delegate?” or “What’s it like being a national delegate?”

My answer to the first question is to become politically involved on the local level, meet other activists, and let people know that you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty by block walking neighborhoods, helping out with phone banks as well as doing voter registration.

The actual process however is pretty straightforward. Vote in the primary, attend your district convention, attend your state convention and hope you get to attend the national convention, which only occurs once every four years to nominate the party’s candidate for president.

What’s the actual experience of being a national delegate like? It’s an amazing and exhausting week of non-stop activities from 8 a.m. every morning until about 2 a.m. every night.

Here’s how a typical day for a delegate unfolds:

Sheriff-Lupe-ValdezYou get up each morning to pick up your delegate credential badge for that day. Each day you get a new credential badge.

Then you attend your state delegation breakfast each morning. During breakfast, a variety of speakers would come to address our Texas delegation.

Some of the speakers at the Texas breakfasts were Wendy Davis, Cecile Richards, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Jim Hightower and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Around 10 a.m. each morning, you get on a bus to take you each day from your delegation hotel to the downtown area where the convention is held. I didn’t want to wait for the bus and so I would jump on the train from the Airport Marriott to downtown Philadelphia which only took about 30 minutes.

Then you arrive at the convention center where all of the various caucus meetings are held during the daytime (the part you don’t see on television).

Being a representative of the LGBT Caucus, I attended the two official LGBT Caucus meetings on Tuesday and Thursday of the convention.

At these caucus meetings, we — the LGBT delegates: more than 700 of us representing 11.5 percent of the entire convention — hear from a plethora of speakers and elected officials, many of whom are also actual members of our community.

Around 2 p.m. each day, you get a little break for a chance to grab a quick bite to eat for lunch. Philadelphia has a great indoor market called the Reading Terminal Marketplace. Yes, I had more than one Philly cheesesteak while there … Delicious!

Then at 4 p.m., it’s time to head to the Wells Fargo Center, where the night sessions were held. Delegates could ride scheduled buses or take the subway. I found the subway to be faster, so that’s what I took.

The evening sessions began around 5 p.m. and we’d hear speakers from all over the country. The real business of the convention actually occurred on Tuesday when all delegates signed their official ballots for the presidential nomination. The tally from each state is what you saw on television during the roll call of states that evening.

One of the best parts of attending the Democratic National Convention, of course, is running into so many famous people and celebrities. Just some of the many people I met or chatted with during the convention were Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos and James Roosevelt, grandson of Franklin and Eleanor!

What I took away from the convention was the sharp contrast in vision for the country between the Republican and Democratic conventions.

Democracy is not a spectator sport. It requires participation. If you do nothing else this election season — take an hour or two to read both party platforms. Those platforms evince what each of the respective major parties represent and what their basic philosophy is. I was a Clinton delegate, but was pleased that many of Sen. Sanders’ positions on various issues were adopted in the Democratic Platform. Many are calling it the most progressive in history.

Is Democracy big, messy, and ugly? It sure is — but that should not dissuade anyone from voting in every election. It is your civic duty as a citizen to vote.

I’ve been politically active long enough — 30 years — to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect candidate and it’s unrealistic to expect that.

Politicians are human just like the rest of us. Do they make mistakes? Sure. Do they have personal faults? Of course. I don’t expect perfection from those in public service.

What I do expect are people who genuinely care and want to improve the lives of people and have a passion for doing that as well as having a certain maturity level to learn from their mistakes. I am honored to have had the great privilege of representing so many of my fellow citizens this year in Philadelphia.

Jay Narey is the President of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, President of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus and was recently appointed to the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Advisory Council.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 19, 2016.

 

—  Dallasvoice

Clinton meets with Sheriff Valdez and others in law enforcement officials

Valdez.Lupe

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton met in New York today with eight law enforcement leaders today, Aug. 18, including Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

The officials represent a group called Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. On Tuesday this week, Valdez spoke to Stonewall Democrats about reducing rates of incarceration.

“It’s obvious that recent events — from Dallas and Baton Rouge to Milwaukee and across the country — underscore how difficult and important the work is ahead of us to repair the bonds of trust and respect between our police officers and our communities,” Clinton said, according to the Washington Post.

In addition to Valdez, the group meeting with Clinton included New York’s commissioner and chief, chiefs from Camden County, N.J., Los Angeles, Seattle, Tucson and the former Philadelphia commissioner.

In a story about the meeting, The Dallas Morning News referred to Valdez as “one of the most popular Democrats in North Texas. When she appeared onstage, Texas delegates in Philadelphia chanted her name.” Valdez spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

—  David Taffet

Federal Carswell prisoner allowed to transition

mariusIn a decision by administrators at Federal Medical Center, Carswell, a federal correctional institution in Fort Worth for female inmates of all security levels with special medical and mental health needs, Marius Mason has been approved to begin hormone treatment for medical gender transition.

Mason, who was assigned female at birth, is an environmental activist, sentenced in 2009 to 22 years in federal prison for the 1999 sabotage of a Monsanto laboratory on the Michigan State University campus. He was diagnosed with Gender Identity Dysphoria around 2013, and came out as trans to friends, family and supporters in 2014. Since then he has been seeking gender-affirming health care, including hormone treatment, or “T” that will cause him to develop male secondary sex characteristics.

It is believed Mason will be the first FTM person to obtain transition-related health care after coming into federal custody.

Although he uses masculine pronouns and the name Marius, the state of Texas forbids name changes for incarcerated people. Experts in the treatment of trans people, however, insist that respect for a patient’s identity, including a gender-appropriate name and pronouns, constitute medically necessary care. Prisons are required to provide medically necessary care.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has had a policy on the care of individuals with GID since at least 2011, but despite Mason’s 2013 GID diagnosis, it was not until an independent expert review medical records that administrators and staff at FMC Carswell agreed to administer hormone treatment. The facility is now much closer to compliance with federal policy on gender-affirming care, and it is hoped that they will acknowledge the use of gender-affirming names and pronouns as a medical necessity.

The decision of FMC Carswell to come into compliance with the Bureau of Prisons directive on GID promises to have positive effects for many other incarcerated trans persons.

—  David Taffet

Sheriff addresses Stonewall on mental health programs in Dallas County jail

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Sheriff Lupe Valdez at Stonewall Democrats meeting

Suicide is the No. 1 cause of death in jail. Since becoming sheriff, the suicide rate in the Dallas County jail, the seventh largest jail in the U.S., has been reduced by 92 percent.

Valdez spoke at the monthly meeting of Stonewall Democrats on Tuesday, Aug. 16, fresh off her nationally televised appearance at the Democratic National Convention. Her topic was mental health programs in the Dallas County jail.

Valdez’s goal is to reduce the jail population and serving those with mental illness is the area she’d like to reduce the most.

“The mentally ill do not belong in jail,” Valdez said.

The current jail population is 5,300 people. When she took office in 2004, about 350 people per day were processed into custody. Today the number is about 250. Of those, about 67 per day are referred to the psychiatric unit. More than half of those are homeless. About 1,100 of the the jail’s inmates are on some sort of psychotropic medication.

“The majority can be in programs other than jail,” Valdez said. “We need to get them out of the cycle of incarceration.”

She said people go to jail to learn to become better criminals.

Valdez said one reason so many with psychological problems are placed in jail rather than other programs is a lack of space elsewhere. Parkland’s psyche unit was full, Valdez said, and another facility was closing. When there are no alternatives, she said, people end up in jail where they don’t belong.

She said the jail’s programs for those with psychiatric problems have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice.

—  David Taffet

Australian Opals lose to Serbia in quarter finals

Phillips.Erin

Dallas Wings guard Erin Phillips scored 10 points in Wednesday’s quarter finals game against Serbia. But her strong contribution wasn’t enough to score a win.

Phillips is competing in the Olympics as part of the Australian Opals basketball team. In the first week of play, the Opals were undefeated. Serbia, competing for the first time in Olympics competition, beat Australia 73-71.

This is the first time since the 1992 games in Barcelona that the Opals didn’t win a medal in women’s basketball.

—  David Taffet

North Texas GLBT Chamber awards $14,500 in scholarships

LEAP-Logo
The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce announced winners of its GLBT LEAP — GLBT Leadership Education & Advocacy Program — scholarships. LEAP scholarships are awarded to residents of Texas who self-identified LGBT, members of LGBT families or allies who have been strongly supportive of the LGBT community.

Thanks to a generous donation by Texas Instruments, this year’s scholars include two recipients of the Steve Lyle Educational Scholarship — $2,500 was awarded to Judith Velazquez, of Schulenburg, Tex., who is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree at the University of Texas, and Melvin Rodriguez, of Houston, who is pursuing a Master of International Affairs/International Politics degree at University of California – La Jolla. Lyle served on the first board of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce who retired from Texas Instruments in 2015.

The $2,000 Rob Ruhlin Memorial Law Scholarship was awarded o Adam Greenup, of Arlington. He is attending UNT Dallas College of Law. The scholarship was established by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce to honor the late Rob Ruhlin, a Chamber board member who lost his life in 2014.

Derek Miller of Fair Oaks Ranch, Tex., was awarded the $1,500 LEAP Film & Television Scholarship. Miller is pursuing a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree at Texas State University.

Three additional scholarships in the amount of $2,000 each were awarded to Margaret Neuner of San Rafael, Calif. (John F. Kennedy University, Calif.); Jordan Richardson of Lufkin (University of Texas); Matthew Chester of Austin (University of Texas).

Founded in 2009 by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, GLBT LEAP has awarded 33 scholarships valued at $55,000.

“Scholarships are at the core of the GLBT LEAP mission to support young adults and nurture leaders in the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender community,”said Candy Marcum, GLBT LEAP Board Chair. This year’s cohort of scholars reinforces our mission and demonstrate the breadth of disciplines being pursued by our future leaders.”

—  David Taffet

McKinney Avenue Sun Fresh Market purchased by H-E-B

Albertson's

Sun Fresh Market on McKinney Avenue when it was operating as Albertson’s

The former Albertson’s that is currently operating as Sun Fresh Market on McKinney at Lemmon avenues was purchased by H-E-B, the San Antonio-based supermarket chain that operates locally as Central Market.

Central Market purchased property to build a supermarket on Lemmon Avenue between Reagan and Throckmorton streets in Oak Lawn. Several buildings on the land have been cleared, but LaMadeleine is still operating and construction on the supermarket has stalled.

According to the Dallas Morning News, H-E-B is deciding whether to operate the McKinney Avenue store as a Central Market or H-E-B.

The McKinney Avenue Albertson’s store was among the stores sold when Albertson’s purchased Safeway, which owned Tom Thumb to avoid anti-trust review.

Sun Fresh Market is currently closing and it may be several months before the store reopens under an H-E-B brand. H-E-B purchased a total of six Sun Fresh stores in the DFW area and already operates five Central Markets in the area.

Read more about food in this Friday’s Food Issue of Dallas Voice.

—  David Taffet

Dallas Wings guard Erin Phillips heads to Olympic quarter finals

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Erin Phillips (Photo from Basketball Australia)

Out WNBA Dallas Wings guard Erin Phillips, participating in the Olympics on the Australian Opals women’s basketball team, is headed to the quarter finals.

The Opals earned a 5-0 record in Group A last week.

For their next match, Australia faces Serbia on Wednesday, Aug. 17. Serbia goes into the quarter finals with a 2-3 record in Group B.

Australia and the U.S. are the only two unbeaten women’s basketball teams.

Here’s what Basketball australia has to say about Phillips:

Erin Phillips has been quieter, held scoreless in two contests, but her game is not always helped by stats as teams still need to honour her shot which opens up the lanes for Mitchell.  Her three assist average is good for third best on the team too.

—  David Taffet

Cedar Springs hit-and-run driver found

Hit-and-run-vehicle-1024x457The driver who hit a pedestrian and killed her dog on the corner of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton in January has been found.

On Jan. 30, a car turned from Cedar Springs Road onto Throckmorton Street and hit Holly Mosley and killed her dog. Mosley had the walk signal as she was crossing Cedar Springs Road in front of the restaurant Zephyr.

After hitting Mosley and killing the dog, witnesses described the driver as gunning his engine and running several stop signs as one witness followed him, trying to get the license plate number.

Zephyr, which hadn’t opened yet at the time, had just installed its surveillance cameras. From that, Zephyr owner Danny Sikora said, they knew the car was a grey Mitsubishi Endeavor.” The angle of the camera wasn’t right to clearly read the license plate from the video.

“Since then, it’s bothered me,” Sikora said.

Every time he saw a car that fit the description in Oak Lawn, he’d take down a license plate or try to identify the driver, whom he remembered as a “bearish white guy.”

Driver and description didn’t fit until this weekend.

Sikora said he was at Walgreens on Cedar Springs and parked next to a grey Mitsubishi Endeavor. He wrote down the license plate number and waited for the driver to come out of the store. The description matched. He sent the plate number to the detective.

Sikora said the detective called Mosley and asked if she wanted to file charges. When police talked to the driver, he said he drives through that intersection often and didn’t know anything happened.

Mosley said she would file charges. Police didn’t confirm what charges would be filed, but for hit-and-run offenses a driver is usually charged with failure to stop and render aid.

—  David Taffet