A former Franklin County commissioner will have his age discrimination suit against the city of Carrabelle, his former employer, heard in federal court.
William H. Massey, Jr. who had represented county commission District 5 until November 2020, went to circuit court in February, alleging that Carrabelle had violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act when it fired him as road crew inmate supervisor in January 2020.
“Despite (his) stellar work performance during (his) employment (with the city), (Massey) has been subject to disparate treatment, different terms and conditions of employment, and was held to a different standard because of his age and because he reported (the city’s) unlawful employment activities and was subject to retaliation thereafter,” reads the February 2022 complaint, filed by the law offices of Tallahassee attorney Marie Mattox.
The suit alleges that in Dec. 2019, Massey was supervising five inmates on a road crew when a prison guard asked him to bring the equipment trailer to the prison yard for repair. When Massey arrived at the prison yard, one of the guards accused an inmate of having a cell phone on him, and Massey, who is in his 60s, was blamed.
“(Massey) was not permitted to frisk or physically intervene when an inmate obtained contraband during (his) work shift,” reads the complaint. “If the inmate hid contraband fast enough, it was possible for (Massey) to be unaware of the contraband being in the possession of the inmate.”
In January 2020, Massey had his inmate supervisor license revoked, and was later given the choice of resigning or being fired by Carrabelle City Administrator Courtney Dempsey, according to the complaint.
Facing the prospect of losing 20 years’ worth of pension contributions, Massey agreed to resign.
In the complaint, Massey contends that a fellow road crew inmate supervisor, Jared Mock, who was in his late 20s, had lost his license, and been terminated, when cigarettes were found on an inmate during a random check at the prison.
Carrabelle, however, rehired Mock a week later to work in a newly-created job at the water and sewer department, which was a much shorter time frame than the typical few weeks it takes for the city to complete hiring, reads the complaint. It says that the city did not offer Massey alternative employment.
The complaint says Massey lost wages of about $5,000 annually until his retirement at age 62, and that he had planned to work in the DROP program to continue to make contributions to his pension. The suit alleges that Massey lost about $200,000 that he otherwise would have accrued through DROP, as well as about $24,000 in pension benefits that he would have had if offered another city job.
In contrast, he now receives about $18,000 per year in pension benefits, reads the complaint.
Carrabelle, which is defending the case through the attorney for its insurer, is represented by Zackary Scharlepp, with the Tallahassee firm of Coppins Monroe.
In a March 28 defense motion, Scharlepp denies that age discrimination occurred. It notes that a review by the Florida Commission on Human Relations, which is required by law in order for such cases toi proceed, had issued a “no cause determination” after reviewing the matter.
The motion contends Massey’s arguments are without merit, and that he had not availed himself of grievance procedures that are afforded him under the city’s anti-discrimination policy.
The defense motion contends that all actions taken by the city in regards to Massey’s employment were made “in good faith and based on legitimate, non-discriminatory, non pre-textual reasons and not based on (his) age.”
In late March, the city asked for and received permission from Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom to have the case moved to federal court in Tallahassee, as the matter involves federal statutes.