Galia Binder May 1, 2014, 6:22am

NEW ORLEANS – A former human resources director for a charter school is suing after allegedly experiencing years of intense supervisory hostility after refusing to engage in grade changing practices.

Kimberly Hulbert filed suit against the New Beginnings School Foundation (NSBF) in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court on Feb. 6.

Hulbert says she was hired by the NSBF on Oct. 15, 2011 as its human resources director and was fired in August of 2013 after accusing her employer of violating the Louisiana Whistleblower Statute.

According to the suit, on March 15, 2013, the school's board president Dr. Timothy Ryan, met with Hulbert to discuss a performance evaluation of Sametta Brown, NBSF’s chief executive officer and its director of student services. Hulbert claims she presented Ryan with a binder full of employee complaints against those being evaluated, claiming a hostile work environment, bullying and retaliation. Ryan allegedly asked Hulbert to file all future complaints directly to him, as chairman, or the Human Resources Committee. He is also accused of asking her not to provide information to the employees being evaluated regarding their investigations.

A week later, Brown allegedly requested that Hulbert submit the names of employees who filed complaints against her.  When Hulbert refused to comply, she claims Brown excluded her from executive meetings, and refused to communicate directly. During the month of April, Brown is alleged to have twice threatened Hulbert’s job after she refused to sign a teacher certification renewal for a non-employee and challenged Brown’s directive to refuse an employee’s sick leave request.

The lawsuit also says that in May, multiple employees allegedly notified Hulbert of teachers who were systematically changing report card grades and, with the support of the board, Hulbert launched an investigation after which she was immediately asked by Brown to dismiss it.  After an employee informed Hulbert she had been asked by Brown to retract her complaints, Brown allegedly compelled Hulbert to fire this employee with a dismissal letter. Hulbert claims that when she asked about the letter’s contents Brown allegedly threw the letter at her.

In June, the plaintiff asserts she contacted the board to discuss Brown’s retaliation and was instructed to continue her investigation and document her interactions with Brown. Meanwhile, an employee allegedly told Hulbert she had removed herself from the grade change investigation because Brown and the school's principal were allegedly working in concert to cover them up. Hulbert claims she emailed the Human Resources Committee asking to remove herself from employee investigations due to intimidation, unprofessionalism and hostility.  A few days later, Brown allegedly told Hulbert her contract would not be renewed because of the grade changing investigation.

Hulbert claims she appealed the contract’s non-renewal and scheduled her hearing with the Human Resources Committee board of directors for August. According to Hulbert, the only committee member present was Carla Major, along with a board member not on the committee, and a personal friend who was not involved with the school. On Aug. 21, the same day Major denied Hulbert’s request, the president and two others allegedly resigned from the board of directors.

On Nov. 16, Hulbert’s attorney sent a letter to the board of directors requesting damages provided for in the Louisiana Whistleblower Act and Major immediately resigned from the board, the suit claims.

The plaintiff is accusing NBSF of violating the Louisiana Whistleblower Statute by refusing to renew Hulbert’s employment on the grounds of her investigation into activities at Medard H. Nelson Charter School.

Hulbert claims she refused to participate in illegal activities including the removal of employee investigation findings from personnel files, written employee complaints from personnel files and employee terminations from personnel files. Additionally, Hulbert assets she also refused to hire individuals as contract workers when they were classified as employees, to hire teachers who were not certified to teach the grades hired for, to deny an employee sick leave time when time requested met requirements for approval and to sign teacher certification applications for non-employees.

The plaintiff is seeking unspecified compensatory damages, back pay, benefits, legal fees and trial by jury.

Hulbert is represented by attorney Victor R. Farrugia of New Orleans.

The case has been assigned to Division N Judge Ethel S. Julien.

Case no. 2014-1343.

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