COLUMBIA - The first woman to head the Army's Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson has filed suit against the government, contending she was the target of racial and sexual discrimination.
In response, U.S. attorneys for the federal government have asked that the claims by now-retired Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King be dismissed.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Terri Hearn Bailey said in a motion filed earlier this month in federal court in Columbia that the government is immune from the suit under the Feres Doctrine, which "bars this court from hearing tort claims arising out of, or incident to Plaintiff's military service."
Bailey said King's claim of discrimination "should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because Title VII does not apply to uniformed service members." Title VII refers to the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law that bars employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.
In her suit, King said three of her former Army colleagues undermined her authority and targeted her for removal from her job because she was black and female. They were identified as Command Sgt. Maj. John Calpena, Maj. Gen. Richard Longo and Gen. Robert Cone, the former commander of the Training and Doctrine Command.
Maj. Harold Huff of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, where the three men served, said, "We do not comment on pending litigation."
Huff said Calpena and Cone have since retired. Longo is serving as Deputy Commanding General/Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army.
The developments in the case were first reported Monday by The Army Times.
King's attorney James Smith said in an interview that she moved forward with her suit because the Army did not respond to her past complaints through normal administrative channels. He said her suit has merit under a "Bivens" claim, which involves a claim against federal officials for a violation of a person's constitutional rights.
King's appointment in 2009 as the first female named to the post was celebrated as an advancement for women in the service.
In 2011, she was suspended, barred from the school and not allowed to speak or contact colleagues during an investigation. Several months later, she was put back in her job after the Army said her suspension was unwarranted, but the service offered no details or explanation except to say it involved her conduct.
The command sergeant major contended at the time her superiors had abused their authority and that she was a victim of sexism and racism.
She was forced to step down from her post, and retired months later.
Smith said the actions taken against King were conducted in a "capricious and arbitrary manner."
"She was vindicated, but justice was never done. The Army has never made any effort to take action against those who did this to her," Smith said.
King seeks unspecified damages in the suit and suggests punitive damages as well.
"We have exhausted every avenue, and the Army response has been totally inadequate. She was denied an opportunity at every turn to make her case," said Smith.
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