HOUSTON - A Houston ISD custodian accused the district of discrimination in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“I was supposed to go back (to work) when a doctor released me to work,” Donetta Harris said.
She was Lanier Middle School’s janitor until her rotator cuff tore on the job. Worker’s compensation ordered surgery. Eight months later, a letter from doctors cleared Harris to return to work with her medical benefits intact.
However, HISD human resources said otherwise, according to Harris.
“They told me that the position at the school was closed and that I need to go online and apply for my job back or other jobs or go file for and draw some unemployment,” Harris said. “How (am I) going to draw unemployment if you’re telling me I’m still an employee of the district? That I still work there? I said, 'So you’re saying I’m terminated?' (They said), 'No. You’re not terminated. You’re still an employee at the district.' So how am I an employee if I’m not working and getting no money?”
She claims HISD cut off her insurance benefits, refuses to give her work and tells other school districts hiring janitors that Harris is an HISD employee.
In a statement, a district spokesman responded.
“The Houston Independent School District is looking into these allegations,” said Tracy Clemons, spokesman for HISD. “We do not comment on personnel matters out of respect for the privacy of our employees. The district is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, gender, national origin, disability, or any other factor.”
Harris insists it was discrimination. She filed a complaint with the EEOC.
“My hair fell out,” she said. “(The district) canceled all my insurance. I can’t get medications. I was angry because I go injured on the job. Anybody would be angry.”
While the district said it does not discriminate, Harris believes her disability is costing her work. She no longer wants to return to Lanier Middle School. However, she will not resign. Harris hopes lawyers can secure her a chance to find work in another district.
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