Former TCU employee claims in lawsuit he was fired after complaining about discrimination

A former TCU employee has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the university.
A former TCU employee has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the university.

A former TCU employee said he was discriminated against by the university after he asked for a new work status that would have allowed him more time to process mounting financial aid applications from veterans — an employment designation that was granted to a white female worker.

Ricardo Avitia, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, wanted to work more than 40 hours a week without activating overtime pay so he could process financial aid applications filed by military veterans. But he was denied this “exempt” status and believes TCU retaliated against him after he questioned why a white co-worker received the status that was denied to him.

Avitia, who is Hispanic, was placed on a performance improvement plan for failing to keep up with an increased workload after he complained, according to the lawsuit. On April 26, 2018, he was fired.

“TCU doesn’t care about veterans or minorities,” Avitia said in a statement. “What TCU did was wrong. I hope the court holds TCU responsible for their discrimination.”

The lawsuit was filed on Monday afternoon in Tarrant County district court.

A TCU spokesman said the university does not comment on pending litigation.

“We have laws in this country outlawing discrimination and protecting those who report it,” said Avitia’s attorney Jason Smith. “While TCU has recently addressed that it values diversity their treatment of Mr. Avitia is not consistent with that goal. As a veteran, you would think TCU would give Mr. Avitia more of a benefit of the doubt.”

Avitia’s lawsuit describes him as a longtime employee who helped students who were veterans apply for financial aid benefits when the university experienced an increase in applications from veterans.

Avitia’s lawsuit states that the university did not increase the staff needed to keep up with applications. He claims the real reason he was targeted is because he is Hispanic and he complained about illegal discrimination.

Avitia’s lawsuits also states that losing the job was also a burden to his children. Two of his children were attending TCU when he was let go and they lost access to free tuition. He has two other children who had planned to attend the college as well.

“Now Plaintiff cannot afford to pay the tuition for TCU and his children have either had to take out student loans or defer attending TCU altogether,” the lawsuit states.

Avitia is seeking between $200,000 and $1 million.

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Diane Smith, a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 1997. Smith, who has covered municipal government, immigration and education, has won multiple awards for reporting, most recently as part of a Star-Telegram team recognized by the Headliners Foundation of Texas for coverage of child abuse and Fort Worth’s Las Vegas Trail area.