Two longtime Houston employees sue city, alleging wrongful termination

Kasey Schefflin-Emrich Sep. 15, 2015, 1:39pm


Two city of Houston employees are suing the city, alleging they were terminated for repeatedly engaging in the law-protected right of reporting discriminatory conduct within the workplace.

Bernard Garrett and Willie Pratt filed a lawsuit Aug. 17 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas against the city of Houston, alleging retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to the complaint, Garrett and Pratt, both longtime city employees, worked as community service inspectors in the Department of Neighborhoods (formerly called the Department of Public Works) at the time they were terminated in 2011.

The suit states Garrett and Pratt have been continuously voicing their opposition to the city's discriminatory practices since 1998 and thus were referred to internally as troublemakers. They often were passed over for promotions and eventually were laid off in September 2011 under the pretense the city was reorganizing the department and was eliminating the position of community service inspector because of budget constraints, the lawsuit states.

However, the suit says this wasn't true and the community service inspectors who weren't fired were either offered a new position or given the opportunity to take a voluntary demotion to a different reclassification with the same salary.

The plaintiffs allege those employees who were retained didn't continuously accuse the city of discrimination and retaliation. Garrett and Pratt also allege many of the retained employees weren't as qualified to perform the duties of the jobs for which they were hired. Additionally, every time the plaintiffs filed EEOC charges, the EEOC determined the city did indeed violate their rights under the Civil Rights Act, the suit says.

Garrett and Pratt seek reinstatement, back and front pay, compensatory damages, attorney fees, court costs and other relief deemed appropriate by the court. They are represented by attorneys Andrew S. Golub and Stephanie A. Hamm of Dow Golub Remels & Beverly in Houston.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas case number 4:15-cv-02375.

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