Image: Judge James Metts (center) at a political gathering on February 27, 2017.
New Caney and Conroe, July 17 – Montgomery County taxpayers paid $45,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim after the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by sexually harassing and then terminating a court clerk in his office. The clerk, Ms. Delonna Snow, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, which the Commissioners Court voted to settle with the payment on August 4, 2014.
The late renowned United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once included the comment in a Keynote Speech at the American Bar Association’s Annual Convention that workplace sex in the system of American jurisprudence puts an entire business at risk. In Harris versus Forklift Systems, Inc., in a 1993 concurring opinion, Justice Scalia wrote that “sexual harassment is actionable if it is ‘sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment.” Justice Scalia’s concurring opinion has become the basic standard of sexual harassment cases under Title VII.
The EEOC determined Metts terminated Snow in November, 2006, in retaliation for Snow’s rejection of Metts’ sexual advances. The entire EEOC Determination is below.
The EEOC made the following findings:
- Since May 2004, Snow “was subjected to harassment of a sexual nature by her immediate supervisor [Metts].”
- “Among other things, the supervisor [Metts] discussed his sex life in…[Snow’s] presence and told jokes of a sexual nature.”
- After Snow “complained of the harassment and continued to reject the advances of her immediate supervisor [Metts], he began systematically retaliating against her, ultimately terminating her employment.”
- In 2004, Metts initially asked Snow “for dates, offered her gifts and money and created the impression among other staff that he and…[Snow] were romantically involved.”
- Snow alleged that on the occasion when she “rejected his advances and refused his offer of money, he threatened to hit her.”
- “The harassment stopped for a period after she complained, but started up again and intensified in August and September 2006.”
- Metts “created a sexually hostile work environment by discussing his sex life in the presence of…[Snow], as well as other staff, and telling jokes of a sexual nature.”
- Snow would tell Metts “that his comments were more information then [sic] she needed to know, refuse to participate in those discussions or leave the area.”
- “Documentary evidence obtained during the investigation shows that Respondent [Montgomery County] failed to follow policy when…[Snow] was issued a Third Level disciplinary action and subjected to immediate termination of employment…” because Snow never received First or Second level disciplinary actions, a violation of the Montgomery County Employment Policy in place at the time.
- Montgomery County admitted to EEOC that “the termination of…[Snow] was initiated and carried out by” Metts.
- “Therefore, based on the analysis of the evidence, the Commission concludes that the evidence obtained during the investigation establishes that Respondent violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended with respect to Delonna Snow’s allegations of sex discrimination and retaliation.”
- “Therefore, based on the analysis of the evidence, the Commission concludes that the evidence obtained during the investigation establishes that Respondent violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended with respect to Delonna Snow’s allegations of sex discrimination and retaliation.” – United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Snow’s lawsuit for sexual harassment and retaliation by Metts
On October 19, 2012, Snow filed a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
EEOC: Snow alleged that on the occasion when she “rejected his advances and refused his offer of money, he threatened to hit her.”
In Snow’s lawsuit, Case 4:12-CV-03130, Delonna Snow versus Montgomery County, Texas, she told the court:
- Snow began working full-time as Metts’ Court Coordinator in September, 2003.
- Snow had worked for 12 years for Precinct 1 without incident prior to working for Metts.
- “Beginning in May 2004…[Snow] became aware of the perception that she was Judge Metts’ girlfriend and that they were romantically involved…That perception was reinforced by Judge Metts’ action and comments towards Ms. Snow and about her…In addition, on one occasion, Judge Metts refused to attend a Rotary Club dinner unless…[Snow] agreed to accompany him to the dinner, which was held in May 2004…During May and June 2004, Judge Metts increased his romantic advances towards Ms. Snow, as well as his efforts to pry into…[Snow’s] personal life.”
- Judge Metts started asking Snow “questions about who she was dating, and continually asked her to go out with him.”
- “Judge Metts tried to give…[Snow] gifts along with his attempts to get her to go out with him on a date.”
- “On more than one occasion Judge Metts tried to give Plaintiff ‘spending’ money, which Plaintiff always refused.”
- “On one occasion when…[Snow] refused to take Judge Metts’ money, Judge Metts became agitated and threatened to strike…[Snow].”
- Snow complained to co-employee Jerry Sue Hayden, the mother of Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden, and to Judge Metts’ campaign manager, Marc Davenport. After Davenport arranged a brief leave of absence for Snow, when Snow returned to the office “Judge Metts became more flirtatious and continued to require Ms. Snow to attend public events with him outside normal business hours.”
- Metts’ advances continued and intensified into 2005, but in August 2005, “Judge Metts began excluding…[Snow] from staff meetings, even though…[Snow] was the office administrator.”
- Metts continued making inappropriate sexual comments to Snow even after she got engaged in November, 2005.
- Judge Metts finally found a girlfriend. “He would often tell the particulars of his relationship with Diane Rogers to Marsha Edwards (another Precinct 4 employee) in open areas of the office.”
- “During 2006, Judge Metts continued to tell inappropriate stories about his sex life and jokes of a sexual nature at the office and within earshot of the employees…Ms. Snow continued to leave the area or in some instances tell Judge Metts that his comments were more information than she needed to know.”
- “Judge Metts’ discussions about sex with his girlfriend intensified in August and September 0f 2006.”
- “In October 2006, Ms. Rogers, Judge Metts’ girlfriend, was hired to work as the Juvenile Case Manger [sic].”
- Later that month, Metts reduced Snow’s duties and changed the locks at his office, so that Snow no longer had a key to the office.
- After attempting some pretexts to complain about Snow’s work, all of which Judge Metts’ Chief of Staff Brian Stanley determined were unfounded, Metts terminated Snow on November 30, 2006, without any First or Second Level Disciplinary action in violation of County policy.
- Snow sued the County government for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation under Title VII.
On August 4, 2014, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court voted to pay $45,000 to Snow to settle the sexual harassment lawsuit. Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador made the motion and then-Precinct 2 County Commissioner Craig Doyal seconded the motion.
All of the funds for the settlement came from taxpayer dollars paid into the County’s general fund and paid out to settle the sexual harassment claims as a result of Metts.
The Commissioners Court vote was unanimous in order to bring this messy litigation finally to a close.
Metts has continued his romantic relationship with the lady, mentioned above (although actually spelled Dianne), who is his Juvenile Case Manager. Rogers earns $42,340 per year in salary plus benefits.
Metts and his girlfriend, who is a full-time County employee, also own a restaurant and flower shop in Splendora by the name of Sweetie Pie’s together. The public may find Metts’ girlfriend managing their restaurant and flower shop during regular County business hours.
Perhaps, Judge Metts ought to consider the wise counsel of Justice Scalia to the American Bar Association.
Since the Courier blog is little more than a public service announcement in favor of the County government, that blog never covered this story, even though the events occurred in the open at the Commissioners Court.