Beaufort News

Discrimination suit against Beaufort County moves to trial

A Beaufort County employee who claims she was passed over for promotion because she is black is scheduled to have her case heard before a federal jury in October.

Indy Bostick, an appraiser who works in the county assessor's office, did not receive two promotions she applied for in 2007 and 2008, and she claims in court documents to have more experience than the white males ultimately hired.

Bostick also alleges county assessor Ed Hughes and another supervisor made racially insensitive comments. A 2009 court filing identifies two former employees, also black, who could be called to testify about alleged unfair treatment.

The county's response depicts Bostick as a mediocre and insubordinate employee with a history of being hypersensitive about race and misinterpreting innocuous comments. Moreover, the county's attorneys argue that Bostick had an apprentice permit, not a state appraisal license, when she applied for the first job and lacked supervisory experience necessary for the second position.

Hughes declined to comment on the case.

Bostick, who remains employed in the assessor's office, could not be reached Friday for comment.

Before they can sue, employees alleging discrimination must first exhaust administrative remedies and file a charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Bostick filed with the EEOC in December 2008.

After investigating the case, the commission dismissed the charge without a finding in September 2009. That means the evidence showed "no reasonable cause to believe that a violation occurred," said James Ryan, an EEOC public affairs specialist.

Bostick then filed the federal lawsuit in October 2009. The complaint does not specify a monetary request, but Bostick seeks back pay and compensation for intangible damages, such as "sustained embarrassment, humiliation and mental anguish."

After evidence was gathered and depositions taken, the county's attorneys moved in December for a summary judgment, which is a ruling in their favor without a trial.

That motion was denied Aug. 10 by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel, who ruled Bostick had met the burden of proof required for the suit to proceed.

Competing evidence, he wrote, cannot be weighed by the court, but must be resolved by a jury.

Juror selection is scheduled for Sept. 13, court documents indicate, with the trial to begin Oct. 31 before Gergel in Charleston.

Bostick's attorney, J. Lewis Cromer, said there will probably be settlement discussions before the trial, but he declined further comment.

Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

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