Former Bluffton police officer settles age-discrimination suit for $150K

astice@islandpacket.comMay 30, 2012 

A former Bluffton police lieutenant who claimed she was unfairly demoted and laid off received $150,000 to settle her federal age-discrimination lawsuit against the town of Bluffton, according to documents released by the town Wednesday.

Katherine Sours, now 56, filed her complaint with the S.C. Human Affairs Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2009, alleging that numerous comments made by Police Chief David McAllister showed her age was a factor in her termination.

Sours, who joined the force in 2006, was demoted from a supervisory position to a patrol job in February 2009, then laid off the following June, according to the lawsuit.

The settlement is to be paid by the town's insurance provider, the S.C. Insurance Reserve Fund, according to the settlement document. Town manager Anthony Barrett wrote in an email that the town paid $75,000 to the reserve fund as a result of the settlement.

Sours also was paid $86,000 to settle a separate wrongful-termination lawsuit against the town filed in state court. That settlement also was paid by the S.C. Insurance Reserve Fund, with the town contributing $15,000.

In federal court, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act allowed Sours to seek damages unavailable in her wrongful-termination suit, including compensation for back wages and emotional distress.

In February, a magistrate ruled the suit could go to trial, denying the town's motion to dismiss the case. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce H. Hendricks cited statements in depositions from former town manager Bill Workman as compelling evidence that Workman and McAllister were "illegally motivated" when Sours was terminated.

McAllister denied the claims, and town officials stood by him, saying budget cuts forced him to lay off Sours. McAllister has since declined to comment on the suit.

Sours submitted evidence to the court that McAllister "uninvitedly" referred to her as "Nana" and "Nana Sours." The chief also allegedly overemphasized Sours' "years" of experience to other employees, commented on her "granny pants" and referred to her as one of the "old folks" and "past her prime," according the judge's report.

However, the settlement, reached April 18, is not an admission of liability and is called "the compromise of a doubtful and disputed claim" in the document.

Attempts to reach Beaufort attorney David Black, who is representing the town, were unsuccessful. Attempts to reach Sours and her attorney, Nancy Bloodgood of Charleston, were also unsuccessful.

McAllister submitted his resignation to the town May 24, effective Aug. 1, to take a position with a security firm in Atlanta. He said Tuesday his resignation was "absolutely not" related to the Sours case. He said he wanted to retire from law enforcement and pursue other career opportunities.

Related content

  1. Judge: Former Bluffton police officer's age-discrimination lawsuit can go to trial, Feb. 6, 2012
  2. Town pays $86,000 to former Bluffton police lieutenant in wrongful-termination suit, Aug. 4, 2011
  3. Settlement reached in Bluffton wrongful termination suit; town keeps amount secret, July 19, 2011
  4. Bluffton denies claims made in lawsuit filed by former police lieutenant, March 2, 2010
  5. Former Bluffton police files age discrimination complaint, Dec. 3, 2009

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