Company Orders Worker not to Leave House

February 23, 2006 ( - A Hurst, Texas city employee has been suspended with pay from his public works job on the condition that he not leave his house between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that City Attorney Matthew Boyle of Irving called the home requirement standard procedure. “It is not to be a paid vacation,” Boyle said. “We’re not in the business of giving free time off from work, and the city doesn’t pay people to run errands.”

According to the Texas Municipal Human Resources Association, the measure is a bit unusual. Melanie Caballero, president of the association and director of human resources for the city of Bryan, said her city requires its employees on paid suspension to be available by phone, pager or other means during their normal work hours, but doesn’t require them to stay at home. Caballero says she does not know any city that is that restrictive, according to the news report.

Hurst has employed D. C. Blues for about five years, and much of his tenure has been tumultuous. Blues said he is being investigated after arguing with another city employee.

Boyle said Blues couldn’t be reached at home one day, and city officials later discovered he was at Wal-Mart. “We needed to drop something off to him at his home,” Boyle said in the news report. “He didn’t call and ask to go shopping. We have to be able to pin down where he is. Mr. Blues doesn’t like to follow rules or management.” Blues said that since then the city has sent police cars and public works employees to check if he’s home.

Blues, who is black, has filed several discrimination complaints against the city with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Boyle said. “All the outcomes of these charges to date have been favorable to the city,” he said. The EEOC dismissed Blues’ latest complaint, in January, the same day he filed it, but Blues said the agency told him to go ahead with a lawsuit.

On February 15, Blues filed a lawsuit in Tarrant County district court, claiming that the city denied him transfers and promotions to several positions in his department between the summer of 2003 and September 2005. He also claims that the city denied him overtime on several occasions because of his race. The suit says the city is retaliating against him because he informed his supervisors and department heads about what he said was the use of racial slurs, theft by crew leaders and alcohol consumption at the service center. Gambling also occurs at the center, he wrote in his complaint.

Boyle dismissed Blues’ accusations, saying, “When you look at these type of allegations, you have to consider where they came from. We’re talking about a disgruntled employee. To presume otherwise wouldn’t be forthright.”