A federal trial has been scheduled for September 2022 in the discrimination lawsuit filed by Loudon County E-911 Executive Director Jennifer White against the Knox County Emergency Communications District.
The trial could last three days and will start Sept. 27, 2022, in Chattanooga, according to a scheduling order filed by U.S. District Judge Charles E. Atchley Jr.
The lawsuit was filed April 12 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. White accused KCECD of not hiring her as executive director in August 2019 because of her gender. She alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Tennessee Human Rights Act.
“Knox County Emergency Communications District has a history of never having hired a female executive director,” Jordan T. Newport, attorney for White, said in an email correspondence. “In the spirit of keeping its discriminatory history intact, Knox County Emergency Communications District refused to hire the one and only female finalist from its most recent executive director opening — notwithstanding the fact that she was the highest qualified, most highly decorated and most well-respected within the emergency communications profession of all the finalists.
“Because of these facts, there is no other way to comprehend why Mrs. White was not selected for the position ... other than the fact that she is a woman,” he added. “As such, Mrs. White felt that it was necessary to bring this action ... to receive justice for its actions against her.”
White is represented by Newport and attorney Jonathan Swann Taylor.
Knox County hired Brad Anders, a former lieutenant of Knoxville Police Department, Knox County commissioner and graduate of the FBI National Academy Session.
KCECD denied wrongdoing or discrimination against White.
“Defendant states that its hiring decision was based on legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons,” according to a joint report filed in federal court June 25.
Russell W. Adkins, attorney for KCECD, said court rules prohibit publicly discussing the evidence. However, the district “looks forward to the opportunity to present its case” at trial, he said. Adkins and attorney Jack Graham represent the district.
“The district followed a fair and transparent hiring process, and the board of directors believes that it made the proper choice when it voted to hire (Brad) Anders,” Adkins said.
Both parties have been ordered to discuss the possibility of using federal mediation to try to resolve the case.
The scheduling order lays out a timeline for steps to occur before trial, including the filing of motions, disclosing expert testimony and final witnesses and the taking of depositions. A final pretrial conference is scheduled for Sept. 12, 2022.
White has served as Loudon County E-911 director for 16 years and has been with the local 911 center in different capacities since April 1996.
Her complaint said Knox County 911 interviewers did not rely on the job posting requirements, qualifications, references and relevant work when considering the hire.
Taylor has asked for a jury trial, for an order that Knox County 911 implement policies, practices and programs that provide equal employment for women, for a judgment that Knox County 911 violated the Civil Rights Act and the THRA and for an award for damages concerning lost wages that White would have received from the job, potential raises, lost benefits and out-of-pocket expenses.
The complaint also asks White to be given front pay and for an award of punitive damages.