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Oklahoma's Department of Corrections ordered to pay employee $175K for 'emotional distress'

Debbie Courtney is also fighting for more than $50K to cover legal expenses.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: June 13, 2013 at 10:25 pm •  Published: June 14, 2013

The state Corrections Department has been ordered to pay $175,000 in damages to a parole and probation officer for “emotional distress” after she sued the agency and claimed she was mistreated by her supervisors.

Debbie Courtney filed a lawsuit against the state agency after she was disciplined by her superiors for conducting a home visit on a woman who was no longer on probation at the time.

Courtney's attorney claimed in court that his client's bosses retaliated against her when she was terminated in March 2011. The attorney also claimed in court filings that Courtney's supervisors, who were mostly black, were guilty of reverse discrimination.

A jury decided in mid-May that Courtney had been retaliated against as she fought to retain her job as a parole and probation officer.

Jurors did not find that Courtney was a victim of reverse discrimination, though.

Seeking damages

In addition to the $175,000 awarded to Courtney by the jury for emotional distress, the woman also was awarded $1,000 in back pay, court records show.

Courtney also is seeking more than $50,000 to cover her legal expenses related to the lawsuit and her fight to retain her job.

Jerry Massie, spokesman for the state agency, said Courtney is still employed as a parole and probation officer.

Massie said “a settlement is in the process of being finalized in lieu of an appeal,” although he did not specify any terms.

Courtney's battle to keep her job started nearly three years ago when she received a letter from her supervisor, Robert Truitt, instructing her to make a “home visit” on a woman whose probation term had expired.

August 2010 incident

The letter from Truitt, a black man, was dated Aug. 16, 2010, Courtney's attorney wrote in the initial petition filed in April 2012. Attorneys for the corrections department, however, deny that such a letter was ever written.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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