Courthouse

A former Denton County Health Department physician who said county officials discriminated against her by paying a male counterpart thousands of dollars more will have her case heard by a jury, federal court records show.

Dr. Martha Storrie, a primary care clinician for the department from 2008 until 2016, said health department and county officials paid a male doctor, who was hired after Storrie received a negative performance review, about $34,000 more than her annually. She also said other male doctors were paid higher than her, and she said her superiors passed her up for a promotion because of her gender.

In a court filing from Friday, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant denied the county’s efforts to have the case dismissed. The case will move to trial, but the judge disabled some of Storrie’s and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s claims.

Storrie’s claim that she was denied a promotion flopped in court after the county presented evidence that she did not apply for the job. The county was able to limit the scope of the EEOC’s claims of discrimination to focus solely on wage discrimination. Storrie had claimed punitive damages, but the judge denied she was entitled to that after the county successfully argued people cannot recover punitive-damage money from a government entity.

Still, the county must fight Storrie’s claim that officials discriminated against her by paying her a lower salary than her male colleague.

The physician filed a complaint with the EEOC in August 2017. The commission filed its own complaint and subsequently a lawsuit on her behalf against the county in federal court last year.

Denton County lawyers tried to prevent the case from going to trial, asking a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas for a summary judgment to effectively bring the case to an end.

A July 2015 performance review done by Dr. Matt Richardson, the director of the health department, was rather critical of Storrie, according to court records. In August of that year, the county hired Dr. Marty Buchanan, and his starting salary was $170,000 (Storrie was being paid $135,695 annually).

A short time later, Storrie met again with Richardson to discuss the performance review. During the review, Storrie said she brought up the pay discrepancy. County health department officials and the physician have presented in court differing tales of what happened after that, but she said she was fired in 2016 in retaliation.

Storrie’s responsibilities as a primary care clinician included treating residents at the county’s public health clinics as well as the Denton County Jail. She said in the months after bringing up the discrepancies, she was moved to more jail-based assignments while her male colleagues were not.

Also, she claimed she noticed medical supplies were increasingly unavailable to her, a sign to her that she was being targeted.

Bob Davis, an attorney representing Denton County, said by phone he was unable to comment about the case. Storrie’s attorney did not reply to an email seeking comment. Docket records show the case is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on Nov. 2, and jury selection is set for Nov. 5.

DALTON LAFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @dalton laferney.

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