The late Harris County Constable Glen Cheek regularly referred to women in derogatory and obscene terms, made female employees do his personal shopping, did not properly promote them and fired a female deputy constable for something he would have forgiven a man.
But jurors in the federal sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed by Kimberly Owen also heard Harris County attorney Lina Garcia say Owen was fired solely because she was charged with drunken driving. Garcia said Owen raised the gender allegations later because she won’t take responsibility for her own actions.
Opening statements were made in the case before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore Monday afternoon. Scott Newar, Owen’s lawyer, said this lawsuit against Harris County is about the way woman are treated in law enforcement throughout the county.
“The right to be free from discrimination or harassment in the workplace, these are fundamental rights,” Newar told the jury of three women and four men. “These are fundamental rights and government agencies like Harris County, Texas are not exempt.”
Cheek, the Precinct 5 constable who died of cancer in April 2007, fired Owen in February 2006 after she was arrested on a drunken driving charge that was later dismissed.
Newar argued that male deputies in the same circumstances had been rescued at the scene by fellow officers and not fired, but Owen was made to go to jail and fired the next day.
“When a male deputy crossed the line, that’s just the boys — no harm, no foul,” Newar said.
He said Owen’s record of more than 18 years at Precinct 5 showed a woman with skill and ambition who climbed the ladder higher than any other woman but was still told to go shopping on work hours for parties Cheek would have to seduce women from work.
But Harris County’s lawyer Garcia said the case was simply “about drinking and driving. It’s about taking responsibility for your own conduct.”
Garcia said Owen didn’t formally complain about Cheek until after she was fired.
“She chose to drink and drive,” Garcia said. Garcia said when Owen was stopped the night of her arrest, her colleague called from Precinct 5 had no discretion to drive Owen home because she appeared very drunk and by driving had committed a crime.
Garcia said when a male deputy was treated differently, the colleague who drove him home didn’t think he’d been drinking and driving.
Jurors heard from Gene Howard, a former supervisor of Owen at Precinct 5. He said he heard Cheek call woman derogatory names, including one vulgarity that “stunned” him.
“I believe he had a very dim, demeaning view of women in general,” Howard said.
Howard said Owen told him she disliked the demeaning terms and being forced to shop for parties Cheek planned.
He said that there was no woman in the command staff of Precinct 5 under Cheek and that he’d been told Cheek would never allow a female captain in his department. Howard said he’d recommended Owen be promoted to captain and part of her lawsuit complaint is that she wasn’t.
If you or a family member has been subjected to wrongful termination or employment discrimination, then please contact the Fort Worth Texas Wrongful Termination Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.