Employee sues Housing Authority director

By Ed Brock

An employee at the Jonesboro Housing Authority is suing her boss who she says assaulted her twice.

Lauren Cohen, 25, who has worked at the JHA for about one year, alleges in the lawsuit that Housing Authority Director Joyce Jacobs grabbed or hit her arm on two different occasions, causing her to have to seek medical attention. She is seeking $4,404.88 in compensation for medical expenses plus an unspecified amount for punitive damages.

Jacobs would not comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in Clayton County Superior Court, but Emmett Arnold, the attorney for the JHA, discounted the allegations in the suit.

"I have looked at the suit and it's my belief and the board's belief that the suit is utterly baseless in law and in fact," Arnold said.

The incidents supposedly occurred in February and May, according to the suit. In one incident Jacobs is described as "grabbing Mrs. Cohen's arm and digging her fingernails into Mrs. Cohen's arm." In the other she hit or shoved Cohen on the arm, according to the lawsuit.

Cohen also filed a report about the May incident with the Jonesboro Police Department, but according to the report there were no witnesses to the alleged physical attack and so no action was taken.

Robert Daniel, Cohen's attorney, said that other incidents between Jacobs and other employees had been filed with the Jonesboro police department as well.

"This is not the first time that an employee of the Housing Authority has claimed that they have been attacked. There is evidence showing that Joyce Jacobs has a history of both verbally and physically abusing employees of the Housing Authority," Daniel said.

A spokeswoman for the Jonesboro Police Department said that they had several reports on file with Jacobs as a complainant but the report on the May incident was the only one they had with her as the offender.

Daniel said Cohen had to stay overnight at the hospital at least once as a result of the injury she suffered.

The lawsuit also alleges that Jacobs, knowing Cohen was "emotionally distressed from a previous battery that Defendant Jacobs had subjected Mrs. Cohen to," called Cohen into her office and threatened to fire her "if she was not willing to accept Defendant Jacobs physical attacks."

In a statement Daniel also said that current employees of the JHA were also reluctant to talk about things that go on in the office because they feared retaliation from Jacobs.

Arnold said there are no prior criminal complaints against Jacobs.

"Ms. Jacobs has almost 30 years of service with the Jonesboro Housing Authority and has done an excellent job of following the board's policy and enacting the board's policies," Arnold said.

Arnold said he passed the case on to an attorney for the JHA's insurance company, Harvey Gray in Atlanta. Gray said he has just recently received the suit and could not make a comment until he had reviewed the suit and interviewed Jacobs.

The suit also asks the jury to award Cohen punitive damages but did not specify how much. Daniel said it is up to the jury to decide how egregious the harm was if they decide the attacks occurred.

"It's really not our place to tell them," Daniel said.

The JHA employs about 25 people and was established in the late 1960s or early 1970s to administer policies of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department such as Section 8 and public housing.