A former high school cafeteria worker won a judgment totaling $341,000 last month from the Independence School District, which she had sued for discrimination and retaliation after she was fired in May 2015.
Until she was fired, Amy Stubbs had worked in the cafeteria at Bridger Middle School and her daughter had been a student at William Chrisman High School.
The lawsuit went to trial Nov. 13 in Jackson County Circuit Court, and the jury convened and gave its verdict Nov. 17.
In Stubbs' lawsuit she said her daughter had suffered sexual harassment for months from a group of female students, beginning in January 2015, and she had repeatedly reported the conduct to Chrisman administration. Stubbs twice was disciplined for using her smartphone during school hours before being fired. Ten days before she was fired, she had withdrawn her daughter from Chrisman.
The jury awarded Stubbs $40,000 in actual damages, as well as punitive damages of $300,000 against the district and $1,000 against Cindy Grant, the district's human resources director. Michelle Crumbaugh, then the district's director of nutrition services, also had been named in the lawsuit, but the jury ruled in her favor and did not assess damages against her.
In a statement, the district said Stubbs had been fired with cause because of social media posts she made during her work day concerning a security issue.
“A decision was made by the school district to not continue Ms. Stubbs' employment, because she posted comments on social media during her work day concerning a security issue at one of the district's school buildings, potentially putting staff and students at risk,” the statement read, in part.
In her lawsuit, Stubbs said she also told her supervisor about her daughter's harassment and asked permission to check and use her smartphone during work to be available to her daughter in case of an emergency or further harassment. Stubbs said she received such permission and also told Crumbaugh about it.
Stubbs was disciplined by Grant in April for using her phone to access Facebook during lunch break, though her lawsuit indicates she believed other employees had done the same thing and not been disciplined.
The next month, Stubbs complained to a district assistant superintendent about her daughter's continued harassment and the district not doing enough to protect her. A few days later, Stubbs was disciplined again by Crumbaugh for taking personal calls during normal work hours. Stubbs withdrew her daughter later in May and was fired several days after that, according to the lawsuit, and her termination letter did not express concerns about Stubbs' work.
The district said it plans to appeal the verdict.
In a separate, pending case, Stubbs and her daughter, a minor, filed a civil suit against the district for discrimination. The case is scheduled to go to trial in August 2018, according to court records.