Ex-TDCJ Public Information Officer Michelle Lyons, who worked for the prison system for nearly 14 years before being constructively terminated almost a year ago, may be closer to her day in court. Lyons, who was removed from her position within the agency after voicing concerns about the agencies time keeping protocol, was moved to another department and punished for speaking out. Lyons later emailed us here at the Backgate regarding those issues and was subsequently disciplined for that as well. After being charged with yet another disciplinary unfairly, Lyons decided to resign her position with the TDCJ. She applied for benefits through the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and was denied after a hearing was conducted with the TDCJ regarding her "resignation". TDCJ enlisted an attorney from the office of general counsel (OGC) to assist the state in fighting the request for benefits from Ms. Lyons.
This is to our knowledge the first time TDCJ has enlisted an OGC attorney to fight against the agency paying unemployment benefits to an employee. All other hearings are fought by unit level administrators or department managers over the phone with the TWC. Why bring out the big guns unless your trying to prove a point, or use the denial as a means of retribution or retaliation? The TWC subsequently denied her claim. Ms. Lyons filed an appeal and the TWC board found that she did in fact meet the criteria for being constructively fired by the agency, and implemented her benefits.
We received information from Michelle today that stated that the TDCJ has elected to go forward, refusing to settle, and proceed to trial. In choosing to ignore their obvious wrongdoing in the matter, TDCJ has now decided to use thousands in state tax payer funds to defend itself against it's own blatant corruption and unfair practices towards it's own employees. It seems to be easier to proceed and fight a losing battle when the money you play with isn't yours. At this point there is no word on when the trial may begin, but both parties are in the process of being deposed in preparation for the trial. We will be front and center when and if a trial does move forward. And to all of you Texas tax payers out there tired of seeing your hard earned tax dollars being flushed down the toilet because a state agency wants to bully it's employees into submission, email or call your local representative and let them know how you feel.