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Tax Collector’s Office hit by ex-employee’s discrimination claim


A former Indian River County Tax Collector’s Office employee has filed a racial discrimination complaint with the Florida Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming she was called the N-word by a supervisor and, along with a co-worker, was subjected to other vulgarity and racial slurs.

According to her attorney, Ketonya Curtis of Vero Beach also alleges that she was targeted for “harassment, insults, badgering and hostile behavior in retaliation” after reporting the incidents to Tax Collector Carole Jean Jordan’s executive staff.

Iyada Jackson, the Altamonte Springs-based lawyer representing Curtis, said the “bullying” became so harsh that her client began having anxiety attacks – one that was so severe she needed to “flee her job” and go to the hospital.

“As I understand it: When Ms. Curtis told her supervisor she was having a panic attack, she was told, ‘Just deal with it,’” Jackson said last weekend, days after holding a news conference outside the Tax Collector’s Office at the County Administration Complex.

“The harassment and hostility continued,” she added, “until she was eventually terminated.”

Jackson said there were multiple incidents involving “racial vulgarity and racist name-calling” by the supervisor. She criticized Jordan’s handling of the matter – particularly her decision to not punish the perpetrator – because “it sends the message that this type of conduct is allowed in that office.”

Neither Jordan nor Vero Beach attorney Jason Odom, who is representing the Tax Collector’s Office, would comment on what they called “pending litigation.”

Jackson said Curtis, who filed her EEOC complaint in July, is seeking the “removal” of the supervisor who spewed the racial slurs, as well as “racial-sensitivity training” for Jordan, her executive staff and all other supervisors in the office.

Jackson said she didn’t publicly identify the supervisor Curtis has accused of using the racial slurs because “we want to do this as fairly and respectfully as possible.” The supervisor was named in the complaint, as was the other alleged victim of the racial slurs.

EEOC complaints are confidential and are not subject to Florida’s public-records laws.

“Right now, Ms. Curtis is the only one whose name is being made public, but one other woman was subjected to derogatory and even lewd remarks, and there are other employees who were affected in different ways,” Jackson said.

“Some of them still work there, and we don’t feel comfortable naming them publicly now, though their names are listed in the EEOC complaint,” she added. “Their stories will come out. This is going to be an ongoing situation.”

Jackson said Curtis, a former supervisor who worked at the Tax Collector’s Office from 2014 until she was “terminated” this past April, was called the N-word by another supervisor while attending a “tax collector conference” in the county’s main office in Vero Beach.

A second incident occurred in the Sebastian office, where the same supervisor made “disgusting racial slurs” to Curtis and “another black woman employee,” Jackson said.

The Tax Collector’s Office denied Curtis’ unemployment claim, Jackson said, but she won her appeal to the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

Jackson said she expects Curtis’ complaint to go to mediation and, depending upon the EEOC’s ruling, a lawsuit could be filed against Jordan and her office.

“If her concerns are not resolved, we could go to court,” Jackson said. “This type of insensitivity cannot be tolerated in either the private or public sector. And if it is, employees should not be afraid to come forward.”