A former Dawson County administrator who was terminated from her position with the county in 2019 won a major settlement last week in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against Dawson County and County Manager David Headley.
As part of the settlement, which was finalized on Tuesday, Sept. 22, Danielle Yarbrough has received an undisclosed monetary amount from Dawson County and has been removed from the county’s “no-rehire” list, among several other stipulations.
Yarbrough, a 20-year county employee, was fired as Dawson County Human Resources Director on Feb. 8, 2019, after it became known she had allegedly received confidential information from a commissioner via email.
In a letter following Yarbrough’s termination, Headley stated that though she had no control over receiving the documents, she violated a recently-signed confidentiality agreement by not taking steps to notify him upon receipt
Yarbrough filed a complaint with the EEOC in June 2019 alleging that Headley and the Dawson County Board of Commissioners discriminated against her, through a wrongful termination that “emanated from disparate treatment on the basis of sex.”
In the complaint, Yarbrough stated that in January 2019 she was surprised with a negative employment review prepared by Headley, which contained “false characterizations and unsubstantiated allegations” concerning Yarbrough’s dealings with confidential information.
According to the complaint, Headley alleged that Yarbrough was deemed “untrustworthy with information among many of her peers,” but reportedly provided no specific examples.
“During my term as HR Director (and during my entire employment history with the County), I never disclosed confidential or sensitive information, and neither Mr. Headley nor the County ever pinpointed a particular instance of such action prior to my termination,” Yarbrough said in the complaint.
After signing a confidentiality agreement with the county in late January 2019, Yarbrough reportedly received unsolicited emails from District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix, regarding “matters considered to be confidential by the County.”
Yarbrough’s termination followed shortly after.
“I believe that Mr. Headley’s conclusions are a pretext for an ulterior motive for the firing and constitute serious accusations that impugn my integrity, place me in a false light and are injurious to my reputation,” Yarbrough said in the complaint. “I believe that my termination is the result of impermissible disparate treatment based on sex.”
At a meeting of the Dawson County Board of Commissioner held on Sept. 17, 2020, commissioners were presented with the settlement agreement by County Attorney Angela Davis and approved it in a 3-0 vote, with commissioners Sharon Fausett and Nix recused.
Before the vote, District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines read a statement denying the charges that were alleged in Yarbrough’s EEOC complaint, stating that the decision to settle was made by the county’s insurance company, “against our wishes.”
“We continue to vigorously deny the allegations that have been made against the county and the county manager, Dave Headley, and would have preferred to have litigated this matter to resolution,” Gaines stated. “Instead, however, based upon our insurance company having a contractual right to unilaterally settle covered cases without the county’s consent, the insurance company did just that – and made a business decision to settle this claim against our wishes.”
In addition to the cash settlement and Yarbrough’s name being removed from the county’s no-rehire list, this agreement will purge Yarbrough’s county personnel file of any documentation reflecting any negative reference concerning her employment or termination, and changes her method of leaving the county from termination to resignation.
Yarbrough declined to disclose the cash settlement amount in an email to the Dawson County News but stated that it, plus the agreement’s other stipulations, had settled the matter adequately in her eyes.
"I am thankful for the almost 20 years I was able to work for Dawson County,” Yarbrough said. “I met some amazing people during my time there and made wonderful friends who supported me throughout this process. The settlement agreement has brought closure to this chapter in my life, and I am ready to move on to different opportunities."