Murphy Arts District Sued by Former Employee

Murphy Arts District Sued by Former Employee

El Dorado Festivals & Events Inc. wants a judge to toss a lawsuit brought by its former executive, who said he shouldn’t have been terminated for being an alcoholic.

Brian Mark Givens, 49, of Ouachita County is once again suing EDFE, which is known as the Murphy Arts District, for firing him in 2018.

While at work one day in September 2018, Givens drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, according to his lawsuit filed in September in Union County Circuit Court. Later that day, “while under the influence of marijuana and alcohol, [Givens] had a ‘black out’ episode, which as of this filing, he does not remember,” the suit said.

Other court records, however, show that a taxi driver took Givens home that day. When the driver left the car to unlock the front door of Givens’ residence, Givens hopped in the front seat and drove off.

Police later found Givens passed out in the vehicle. He was charged with three felonies but later pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a vehicle and public intoxication, both misdemeanors.

About a week later after the taxi incident, Givens checked himself into a rehabilitation center for treatment of alcoholism. While there, Givens learned that he had been fired as executive vice president of entertainment and talent relations, a job that paid more than $100,000 annually.

Givens said alcoholism is a disease and is protected from discrimination under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act. He seeks an unspecified amount of money related to the termination and the “emotional distress” he suffered.

But EDFE said in its recent court filings earlier this month that Givens’ case should be tossed out. The case marks Givens’ third lawsuit against the organization involving the same set of facts, EDFE argued. The first two cases were dismissed.

Also, EDFE said in its filing, Givens’ claim “has a fatal flaw — the General Assembly specifically excluded alcoholism from the definition of ‘disability’ under the ACRA.”

In a statement to Whispers, attorney Stuart Jackson of the Wright Lindsey Jennings LLP firm said that EDFE, as it has with Givens’ two previously dismissed lawsuits, “continues to deny and reject the allegations and numerous misstatements in Mr. Givens’ filing. We regret that such allegations have been raised again after the previous dismissals, but look forward to the opportunity to once again address the matter in the appropriate forum.” He said this is an ongoing legal and personnel issue, and EDFE wouldn’t have any further comment at this time.

Givens’ attorney, David Price of Magnolia, didn’t return messages asking for comment.