Former employee wants TCU records on past discrimination claims


The chancellor responded to a list of demands released by students. (Kat Matthews / TCU 360)

By Renee Umsted

This story was updated July 21 with the university’s response to TCU 360’s request for a comment.

A former employee in the registrar’s office, who is suing TCU for discrimination, is accusing the university of attempting to hide proof of other instances of discrimination and its policies for dealing with discrimination complaints.

The allegation was made on behalf of Ricardo Avitia, who is claiming that he was fired because he complained his supervisors discriminated against him.

On Monday, his attorney filed a brief in the 342nd District Court, asking the court to force the university to provide information about other discrimination cases, as well as “personnel file information, contact information for persons with knowledge of relevant facts, and studies and reports of discrimination issues performed by Defendant TCU or outside consultants.”

“As a practice, Texas Christian University does not comment on the specifics of pending litigation.”

TCU’s statement

The brief filed by Avitia’s attorney, Jason C.N. Smith, requests TCU answer the plaintiff’s discovery requests, including information regarding other discrimination, complaints and reports on race and diversity issues.

The brief, filed on behalf of Ricardo Avitia on July 20 in the 342nd District Court in Tarrant County.

According to the brief, Avitia, who is originally from Mexico, worked as a veteran specialist in the registrar’s office. During his more than six years at TCU, he received “excellent” reviews of his performance, according to the brief.

In fall 2017, Avitia’s workload was increased because about 100 people joined the veteran/dependent student population. According to the brief, Avitia asked to be reclassified as an exempt employee so he could work as many hours as necessary each week to finish his work, without needing overtime.

According to the document, Avitia’s white female counterpart, the NCAA certifying employee, was classified as exempt, but Avitia’s request was denied.

Around Oct. 1, 2017, Avitia filed a race, national origin and sex discrimination complaint with Dr. Darron Turner, TCU’s chief inclusion officer and Title IX coordinator, according to the document. Avitia named his supervisor, Tiffany Wendt, and the registrar, Mary Kincannon, as those giving him “disparate treatment.”

According to the document, Turner tried to convince Avitia not to file a complaint. Another plaintiff, Jane Doe No. 3, also alleged Turner encouraged her not to file a complaint with the Title IX office.

After Avitia filed the complaint, Turner spoke with Kincannon, and according to the brief, Kincannon later told Avitia she “did not like hearing complaints from other departments.”

Avitia then received criticism of his performance, was placed on a performance improvement plan and was terminated in April 2018, according to the document.

The information requested by Avitia is important to the Title VII discrimination case, according to the brief, because the plaintiff currently relies on circumstantial evidence.

Proof of discrimination can reveal TCU’s policy and practice related to minority employment and may show pretext, according to the document.

“‘Cross category’ discrimination, that is discrimination against other non-whites who are not the same race as the Plaintiff, is relevant to show Defendant’s discrimination against non-whites,” according to the document.

Though proof of an environment of discrimination does not prove discrimination against a person, it can show that the reasons for an employer’s action were “implicitly influenced” by a plaintiff’s race, age, sex or religion, according to the brief.