Woman who reported gun at work files federal racial discrimination lawsuit

awomack@macon.comMarch 24, 2014 

A woman fired from her job four days after she reported a co-worker had an assault rifle at work has filed a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and retaliation.

The lawsuit, filed by Tiawanda D. Hampton, names as defendants the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority, the authority’s board members, the city of Macon, Bibb County commissioners and John Allengood, who is the transit authority’s human resources manager.

Hampton, an administrative assistant, alleges she walked to the break room on March 28, 2013, and noticed Allengood in an office with a large assault rifle, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

Hampton and a co-worker called law enforcement and tried to reach the transit authority’s CEO by phone to report the gun. Hampton also called a transit authority manager who allegedly said she was aware of Allengood bringing the gun to work, the lawsuit said.

She then called the chairman of the transit authority’s board of directors who told her Allengood having a gun at work was “unacceptable and against the company’s policy,” according to the court filing.

In an April 1 meeting, transit authority CEO Richard Jones allegedly insisted Hampton disclose who “authorized” Hampton to call the chairman of the board and repeatedly asked why she called the chairman, according to the lawsuit.

He allegedly said he “should never receive a call from the chairman of the board for such an incident” and said, “‘what happens at Macon Transit stays at Macon Transit,’” according to the lawsuit.

She was fired for insubordination the following day, according to the court filing.

Phone messages left at the transit authority were not returned Monday.

Macon-Bibb County spokesman Chris Floore declined comment Monday, saying the local government hadn’t yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit.

With shootings on college campuses in the news along with reports of workplace violence, “everybody is legitimately on heightened alert to these situations,” said Winston Denmark, Hampton’s lawyer.

“She believes she did nothing wrong, he said. “If you look at her behavior in any reasonable light, what would you expect the average ordinary citizen to do in that circumstance? They would do what she did.”

In the lawsuit, Hampton, who is a black woman, additionally argues that it’s unfair that Allengood, a white man, was not fired.

Hampton filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on April 12, 2013.

Denmark said Hampton has found another job, but it’s not comparable to her position at the transit authority.

“She has experienced some financial hardship,” Denmark said. “She is trying to move forward, and hopefully this lawsuit will allow her to be made whole.”

Hampton is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, court costs and attorneys fees.

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