Denton County filed an answer Thursday in response to claims made by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that it paid a former female employee less than her male colleagues.
The EEOC filed the suit at the end of August on behalf of Dr. Martha Storrie, who was paid at least $34,000 less than a male coworker of the same position. Attorney Robert J. Davis responded on Sept. 28, saying the county did not act unlawfully and that there were no claims from the EEOC of which Denton County should have to provide relief.
Denton County admits it hired male doctor Marty Buchanan as a primary care clinician with a starting salary that exceeded Storrie’s. This is because his experience and expertise in the primary care specialty of internal medicine surpassed that of Storrie, according to the document.
“When she was hired, Dr. Storrie was a Urologist with zero years of primary care experience and zero years of experience in infectious disease,” the response says. “She held no board certifications in infectious disease or in any primary care specialty such as family practice, pediatrics or internal medicine (and she still did not at the time of her firing).”
The response details Buchanan’s 21 years of primary care experience and his board certification in internal medicine at the time of his hiring.
The court document also includes an affirmative defense, a set of facts not already presented by the plaintiff that may block his or her claim.
The affirmative defense reiterates that Storrie was paid according to experience and not gender, showing the county did not unlawfully discriminate against her. It says because of Storrie’s termination, which Storrie did not appeal, she is ineligible for the front pay damages or reinstatement requested.
The affirmative defense is followed by an unclean hands doctrine, a defense to a legal complaint that says a party seeking judgement can’t have the court’s help if the plaintiff acted unethically in regards to the subject matter in the lawsuit.
“[B]y virtue of Dr. Storrie’s discriminatory, abusive, unprofessional and other wrongful conduct, the EEOC and Dr. Storrie should be completely barred from any recovery against Denton County,” the document says. “Dr. Storrie was terminated for failing to professionally perform her duties as a Primary Care Clinician. Quite simply, neither the EEOC nor Dr. Storrie should benefit from the termination of an employee who exhibited entirely unacceptable behavior.”
The response gives examples of the referred to discriminatory behavior towards Hispanic patients, as detailed in the notice of termination of employment from 2016. This includes denying lab tests based on assumed patient compliance, with Storrie witnessed saying “What does it matter when they won’t change their behavior? They just go eat more tortillas and meat.”
The document also refers to Storrie’s written comments in a medical record.
“Finally, you referred to a patient in the electronic medical record on 3-28-16, as a ‘roly-poly HF (Hispanic female)’. This type of derogatory and discriminatory comment is completely inappropriate and unacceptable and, unfortunately, remains in a permanent clinical record,” the response says.
Storrie was instructed by the EEOC to not make public comments regarding the suit.
Attorney Bill Trantham, who represented Storrie in the hearing concerning her termination, said Davis will present any defense he can dream of for this case.
“What in the world does being discharged have to do with failing to pay her the salary? She’s suing them because of wage discrimination,” Trantham said in regards to her statements. “Talking about why she’s fired is water under the bridge.”
Trantham said the roly-poly comment was written on a line in the medical record that asks for body type and had nothing to do with race.
In the original claim by the EEOC, it says Storrie brought the pay discrepancy to the attention of the director of public health, who is tasked with recommending starting salaries for the position, but the director made no moves to change her salary.
The response says unclean hands is further applicable because Storrie’s concerns with her income were mildly discussed and only after receiving disciplinary actions for her aforementioned behavior.
She did not ask for a raise and continued to accept her $120,000 yearly salary for eight more months until she was terminated, it says.
Davis ends the response with a demand for a trial by jury.