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Texas agency slapped with federal discrimination lawsuit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing the Texas Depart­­ment of Family and Protective Serv­­ices for race and gender discrimination, alleging that supervisors regularly harassed a black employee and later wrongly fired him.

From October 2006 to July 2007, Michael Lewis worked in the Child Protective Services Division at the agency’s El Paso office, where he was the only black male employee.

According to the DOJ lawsuit, supervisors Theresa Santaguida and Georgina Martinez regularly harassed Lewis, spewing racial insults and slurs at him.

The lawsuit alleges that the women commonly referred to Lewis as “boy” and made slave-related remarks (including threats to get out “the whip” if Lewis did not complete work to their satisfaction).

The DOJ’s suit also claims Santaguida warned Lewis that she was known as a “slave driver.”

She reportedly referred to blacks as “you people” and told Lewis she didn’t “like working with you people.”

Lewis alleges that his supervisors ignored and ridiculed him when he reported that a client was sexually harassing him—even though the agency took action when a client behaved inappropriately toward a nonblack, female employee.

Lewis claims he told his super­visors that he found their conduct offensive and asked them to stop, but that they ignored him.

The Department of Family and Protective Services fired Lewis in July 2007. Lewis filed an EEOC discrimination complaint in January 2008.

The DOJ is claiming that the supervisors’ conduct violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The suit seeks compensatory damages and an order requiring the Department of Family and Protective Services to adopt appropriate workplace policies and training to ensure fair handling of discrimination complaints.

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