Saturday, July 20, 2019

Million dollar sexual harassment case against Joplin R-8 concludes as Dankelson rules against former employee

A sexual harassment lawsuit against the Joplin R-8 School District concluded June 27 when Jasper County Circuit Court Judge Dean Dankelson heard evidence for both sides and ruled in favor of the school district.

In his decision, Dankelson said the district is protected by sovereign immunity and that the attorney for Kathy Dukes, William Weber, Pineville, did not prove his claim that the district's liability insurance waived sovereign immunity protection.

Sovereign immunity is a doctrine that says the government cannot commit a legal wrong and cannot be sued. While there are exceptions to sovereign immunity, Dankelson ruled Weber had not found one for this case.

Dukes' lawsuit, which was filed February 10, 2015, claims she reported to human resources director Tina Smith that her supervisor, Peter Coleman, was sexually harassing and stalking her.

Six days later, Smith took decisive action, placing the alleged victim, Dukes, on paid administrative leave.

A month later, despite a notice that said Dukes' complaint had been confirmed, Smith pressured Dukes into quitting, holding the threat of a bad job reference over her head, according to the lawsuit.

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