Special to the Enterprise
A wrongful termination and family and medical leave suit filed against the county recently may have actually gained even more ground earlier this year when not only the district attorney’s office but also the department of labor found in favor of a former 911 dispatcher.
The Enterprise reported last week that former 911 dispatcher, Brittany Ammons was placed under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and subsequently fired by her supervisor, 911 Director Linda Murrell last year.
But months later, the district attorney’s office in Waycross filed an official letter clearing her of any legal wrong-doing though admitting that there could have been a violation of policy in her actions.
But as of May of this year, the Georgia Department of Labor cleared her of policy violation as well after an appeal and three hearings.
The whole incident began when Ammons released personal information about a resident to a deputy who wanted to return a shotgun to a resident.
Ammons used the records digitally available to 911 dispatchers to find the information and it was that, according to the county, that led to her GBI investigation in a possible breach of security.
In a subsequent hearing by the labor board, the hearing officer agreed that the release of a person’s individual information by driver’s license number including personal information about the wife and son was against employer policy to only use the system for official purposes.
But in the appeal, hearing officer Andromeda O’Neal overturned the ruling stating that the policy doesn’t describe what is considered an official purpose.
O’Neal’s decision goes on to say that the employer has no written policy that instructs 911 operators to question or challenge a deputy when requesting information. Ammons was also not verbally advised to refuse information to a deputy. The decision also states that the practice has been common in the past.
In the end, the county didn’t meet the burden of proof that Ammons violated policy, did not have a written policy against the actions that led to her discharge and was never verbally advised against her actions.
O’Neals final verdict found Ammons not at fault and qualified for benefits for the period of unemployment or the amount of wages paid by the employer from the beginning date of the base period of the claim – whichever is less.
Despite both the labor department and the district attorney’s office both finding in favor of Ammons, she has yet to be rehired which was part of what led to a recent notice to procede with a lawsuit that was filed with the county.
Ammons also claims that the the entire investigation was retaliations for her appeal of a previous Medical and Family Leave dispute for days off when her husband was out for surgery.
Since she filed the ante-litem notice with the county, her husband, Daniel Ammons, has also been dismissed from his job with the Sheriff’s office inside the 90 day probationary period specifically for being a party to the suit with his wife.
The sheriff and the county maintain that because he was within this period of time, that he was able to be fired.
But the Ammons’s attorney’s counter that there must be a valid work-related reason for the dismissal under county policy.
The case has since been officially filed with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.