Fired school bus driver turns whistleblower; Claims racial discrimination perpetrated by Jefferson Parish School Board

By Louisiana Record reports | May 8, 2015

GRETNA – A former bus driver is suing the Jefferson Parish School Board claiming she was subjected to racial and sexual discrimination prior to being fired.

Louvenia Penwright filed suit against Jefferson Parish School Board in the 24th Judicial District Court on March 26.

Penwright, an African American female, was a bus driver for the Jefferson Parish School Board for over 21 years and asserts she began to notice that Caucasian male bus drivers were being given preferential treatment. In fact, the plaintiff claims one Caucasian male bus driver failed a breathalyzer test while on the job and was fired only to be later reinstated on appeal while a African American male driver who failed a breathalyzer test was summarily terminated.

Penwright alleges that another Caucasian male bus driver was allowed to pick students up in the street whereas other bus drivers had to pick them up in a circle drive. The plaintiff also contends the defendants refused to put an African American female bus driver who was already working for the school system on full time and instead hired two less experienced Caucasian drivers. In addition, Penwright asserts another African American female bus driver was subjected to a random drug test that were not imposed on the Caucasian bus drivers.

The plaintiff claims her problems with the defendant began with her supervisor who disciplined her for improperly loading and unloading students, even though she had done so in the same manner as Caucasian male drivers who were not disciplined, for which she was forced to undergo re-training and placed on two years probation by the Jefferson Parish School Board, who were all Caucasian. Penwright alleges her supervisor also yelled at her and forced her to complete another driver’s route despite having an obligation to pick her child up from after care.

Due to the conflict with her immediate supervisor Penwright contends she complained to her supervisor’s boss. Nothing was done and later after she sought workers’ compensation for an on-the-job injury she was fired, and replaced by a Caucasian male driver, for allegedly being a high risk driver. While the plaintiff admits she was in an accident, she maintains several other drivers were in more serious accidents, including at least one death, and were not fired.

The defendant is accused of retaliatory firing, wrongful termination, violation of Louisiana Anti-discrimination laws, defamation, harassment and violation of the plaintiff’s freedom of speech.

An unspecified amount in damages is sought for back pay, benefits, reinstatement, emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, court costs, litigation expenses, legal interest and attorney’s fees.

Penwright is represented by attorney Dan M. Scheurmann of Baton Rouge.

The case has been assigned to Division I Judge Nancy A. Miller.

Case no. 748-097.

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