Tarrant employee's lawsuit alleges racial discrimination

Posted Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2013  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- A longtime employee of Tarrant County Juvenile Services has sued the county, alleging a pattern of institutional racial discrimination dating to 2005 when he was passed over for a promotion to assistant director of the department.

At a news conference Tuesday on the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse, Dallas attorney Victoria Neave said Richard J. Gonzales, who is in his 60s, was discriminated against based on his race and age when he applied for the promotion from his job as deputy director of administrative services.

In 2010, Gonzales' position was eliminated, and he was demoted to his current job as a grant writer for the juvenile services department, Neave said.

When Gonzales, who is Hispanic, sought another promotion to a job in his former pay grade, he was denied the opportunity to apply, Neave said.

"We believe there has been a pattern of discrimination and a hostile work environment," she said.

The Tarrant County district attorney's office does not comment on pending cases, but it said Gonzales filed a complaint with the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission in 2011.

"The commission reviewed the matter thoroughly and issued a no-cause determination last summer," Melody McDonald, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, wrote in an email.

"That no-cause determination was subsequently adopted by the EEOC in Dallas."

Gonzales, who has been employed by the juvenile services department since 1996, referred all questions about his claims to his attorney.

Flanked by 10 members of the Black, Tan and Brown Caucus at the news conference, Neave said that Randy Turner, director of the juvenile services department, allegedly told Gonzales that "he was going to hire an African-American regardless of other applicants' qualifications."

The lawsuit claims that Turner also said he would deny making the remark if Gonzales ever told anyone.

"They are trying to pit two minority groups against each other in Tarrant County," Neave said.

In its no-cause ruling, released July 20, the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission noted that a black woman who was selected for the assistant director position scored higher than Gonzales and three Anglos who had applied for the job.

The ruling also said that Gonzales' position was eliminated because of budget constraints and that other positions held by black, Anglo and Hispanic employees were also cut in the juvenile services department.

The Black, Tan and Brown Caucus is a Fort Worth-based group with a mission of helping disenfranchised communities.

According to the lawsuit, Gonzales seeks damages of more than $200,000 but less than $1 million, as well as back pay and reinstatement to his previous position.

Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981