Melissa Kilpatrick, a former recovery court counselor, has filed a sexual disrimination lawsuit against Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron for promoting a less-qualified applicant instead of her.
According to the lawsuit, Ketron selected Steve Irwin as the Probation and Recovery Court Director, even though Kilpatrick and another female applicant were much more qualified for the position.
Kilpatrick was making $45,900 a year when she applied for the director job that pays about $72,000 a year.
“The rejection of her application was based on her sex,” the lawsuit said. “Plaintiff’s application for promotion was denied by Rutherford County through the actions and decisions of its County Mayor, because she is a woman, even though she is vastly more qualified than Ervin is.”
Steve Irwin’s work experience prior to applying for the director job involved being a high school civics and economics teacher for school, and he has been a development director for a private church school since 1999.
The lawsuit also claims Irwin retaliated against Kilpatrick because she was a woman and applied for the Director’s position.
“On July 3, 2019, Plaintiff learned that there had been an improper disclosure of confidential client information that was made by Irwin,” said the lawsuit, adding that Kilpatrick and a co-worker attempted to bring this issue to the director’s attention. “Within the first minute of the July 3, 2019, meeting with Irwin, he began shouting at plaintiff in a way that represented an escalation in his intensity from a prior outburst he had toward her within the first few days of Ervin’s assumption of the Director’s position.”
The suit also says that Irwin made sexist remarks that implied that female employees are weak and require more protection than male employees.
Kilpatrick made a formal complaint about Irwin’s remarks on July 4 to County Human Resources Director Sonya Stephenson. When Irwin found out about the complaint, he met with Kilpatrick.
“Plaintiff was the recipient of a completely bogus and unwarranted disciplinary action given to her just minutes before she was to meet with Ms. Stephenson to discuss her complaint against Irwin,” the lawsuit said. “She was then repeatedly told in an intimidating and sexist way, that she was to only say ‘yes, sir,’ when given an instruction and to do exactly as she was told.”
On Oct. 18, Kilpatrick was terminated for her inability to get along with others, according to the lawsuit. Ketron allegedly supported Irwin’s decision to terminate her without warning.
Kilpatrick is seeking $750,000 in damages from the lawsuit.