Ex-director sues Fulton County Schools, alleging racial discrimination

Robert Bailey filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, Fulton County Schools, alleging an "ongoing pattern of racially discriminatory treatment." (Vanessa McCray / AJC file photo)

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Robert Bailey filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, Fulton County Schools, alleging an "ongoing pattern of racially discriminatory treatment." (Vanessa McCray / AJC file photo)

A former Fulton County Schools technology director is suing the district, alleging he faced racial discrimination.

In a federal lawsuit filed this week , Robert Bailey contends he resigned in March after facing “a humiliating demotion and an extreme cut in pay.”

The lawsuit also names Superintendent Mike Looney and Emily Bell, Fulton’s chief information officer who oversees the district’s technology division. Fulton spokesman Brian Noyes declined to comment on pending litigation.

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Bailey, who is Black, was hired in 2020 to manage the district’s move to Atlas, a technology system used to handle business functions such as payroll and billing and to automate other tasks.

The lawsuit contends that after Bailey was hired, Bell became his boss and reorganized the department. Bailey alleges that his responsibilities were reduced and his expertise was “consistently devalued.”

“He observed one pattern of treatment in the information technology division for African-Americans, and he observed a different pattern for whites. And that’s a violation of the law,” said Artur Davis, Bailey’s attorney.

Bailey alleges that in late 2021 he tried to schedule a meeting with the human resources chief to report his concerns. The lawsuit states that Bell, who is white, then questioned Bailey about why he had contacted human resources.

The new technology system launched in January. Bailey’s lawsuit states that the project was greeted internally with accolades and praise.

Publicly, at least one school board member voiced concerns with the rollout, saying at a January meeting that there were some shortcomings to the system and that it was “not exactly working like we had hoped.”

That month, Bailey again requested a meeting with human resources “to complain about an ongoing pattern of racially discriminatory treatment,” according to court documents.

He alleges that, about two weeks later, he was notified that he would be demoted from his director position to a part-time support technician. The suit states his salary would be cut from $125,000 to $47,500.

Davis said that the district “did not in any way, shape or form” comply with its written process for handling such a demotion.

Bailey is seeking back pay, future pay and lost benefits, among other damages.