JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – A civil action lawsuit has ended in favor of a Pine Belt woman who took her former employers Sanderson Farms and Mississippi Board of Animal Health to Federal Court. Anna Christian first filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Sanderson Farms in March of 2017 which led to a lawsuit accusing the poultry giant of violating her civil rights. A legal fight carried over into another job at the state board of animal health.
From 2012 to 2016 Anna Christian was the only woman employed as a broiler supervisor at the Sanderson Farms plant in Collins. Court records show she faced gender discrimination by being paid less than male colleagues doing the same work and always harassed by her department head who took fault with anything she did over male co-workers.
“I complained about the equal pay act, I was paid approximately $5,000+ less than the male supervisors,” Christian said. “I was also written up for things that the male supervisors were not getting wrote up for.”
Seeing her civil rights under Title VII of the 1964 law violated because of gender discrimination, Christian represented by Rachel Waide of Waide and Associates, took Sanderson Farms to court after being fired for made-up claims that she “falsified documents”.
“I hope these sorts of cases inspire employees to take action to protect their rights just like Ms. Christian did,” Attorney Waide said. “She took action against Sanderson Farms because she was discriminated against because of her gender.”
In the middle of this case, Christian did find a new job as a Poultry Epidemiologist with the Mississippi Board of Animal Health, but the legal fight carried over when appointed member Dr. Philip Stayer, who’s also a veterinarian at Sanderson Farms met with Board Director Jim Watson to get Christian fired over claims of a “conflict of interest.” Emails from the plaintiff showed Director Watson was aware of her previous employment and originally told her there was “no conflict of interest”. Still, Christian was soon fired four months later despite having no complaints on the job.
“While they tried to say it wasn’t a problem it was clearly on their radar screen,” Attorney Waide explained. “They called Ms. Christian in to talk about it with her. It seemed pretty clear what they were discussing was not her performance but her EEOC charge and lawsuit against Sanderson Farms.”
In her position, Anna’s duties were to only inspect growers who have contracts with poultry companies in Mississippi. Attorney Waide noted the real conflict of interest should be Sanderson Farms veterinarian Dr. Stayer being appointed to a government board in charge to regulate his own company.
“It was intriguing to us to realize that the Mississippi Board of Animal Health’s job is regulating the poultry industry,” Attorney Waide added. “Then to find out that the veterinarian for Sanderson Farms is on the Board of Animal Health.”
The jury agreed, and Anna was awarded $153,124 to be paid from the Board of Animal Health for lost wages and damages from this wrongful termination.
“If you feel that you’ve ever been discriminated against or retaliated against then you can speak up,” Christian stated. “Stand up for yourselves, you shouldn’t be fired from another job for trying to stand up for yourselves.”
In a statement Board Director Jim Watson said, “We disagree with the outcome of the trial, the evidence we presented demonstrated why we didn’t retain her as she approached the end of her probationary period. We fully support the right of individuals to file an EEOC Claim. The Attorney General’s Office will evaluate our legal options.”
Christian’s case against Sanderson Farms was also settled but a disclosure agreement was signed to prevent details from coming out of the case. We reached out to them for comments on Christian’s complaints but never heard back.