A judge has rejected some claims in a lawsuit by a former Macon Transit Authority employee, but allegations of racial discrimination against the bus company are going forward.
Her lawyer says he expects evidence for the rejected claims to emerge soon.
“We’re going to conduct discovery, and we’ll ultimately refile all the claims because we’re satisfied they’re all viable,” attorney Winston Denmark of Jonesboro said.
TiaWanda Hampton, a former administrative assistant at MTA, filed the lawsuit last year against the transit authority, claiming that her firing involved racial discrimination, violation of her First Amendment rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of the Georgia Whistleblower Statute.
She sued MTA, Macon and Bibb County -- now merged as Macon-Bibb County -- transit authority board members as well as MTA Human Resources Manager John Alligood. Hampton sought attorney’s fees and unspecified damages.
The case is in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss April 30. Denmark responded May 13, and Judge Marc Treadwell issued a ruling June 26 that included harsh words for the transit authority.
“TiaWanda Hampton’s allegations, which the Court must accept as true at this early stage of the case, paint a dismal picture of management at the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority,” he wrote. “But the question is not whether the Transit Authority is a good manager of its personnel; the question is whether Hampton’s complaint properly states a claim for violation of federal or state law. With one exception, it does not.”
Treadwell dismissed all defendants except the MTA itself. Hampton, though she included them in the lawsuit, made no specific claims against the other parties, he wrote.
Treadwell also rejected all Hampton’s claims except the one on racial discrimination. That part of the suit can go forward, he ruled.
Denmark said the discovery process will start soon, and he expects to refile the other claims and reinvolve the dismissed defendants based on information that turns up through that.
“We think everybody will ultimately be in the case,” he said.
Ultimately he looks forward to “spirited litigation,” though there’s no telling when it might actually come to trial, Denmark said.
Neither MTA General Manager Rick Jones nor David Cole, the Atlanta attorney representing MTA in the case, returned calls seeking comment.
The case stems from an incident at the MTA office in Terminal Station on March 28, 2013. Hampton walked into the break room to see Alligood “brandishing an assault rifle,” which he’d recently bought and brought to show off to another employee, according to court documents.
Hampton says in the documents that she was scared and, knowing MTA policy prohibited guns in the office, tried to contact several superiors. Ultimately she called Craig Ross, the MTA board chairman, who spoke with Jones. Alligood took the gun to his truck, the documents say. He received a brief suspension for the breach of policy, but Hampton alleges that on April 1 Jones interrogated her about why she went over his head to call Ross. Hampton refused to respond, according to court documents, and the next day she was fired for insubordination.
Treadwell’s ruling said that though Hampton, who is black, and Alligood, who is white, didn’t do the same things, their actions were “intertwined” in the incident.
The racial discrimination claim can stand because they were treated differently: “Hampton was fired and Alligood was not,” Treadwell wrote.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.