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Ex-lottery employee claims bias complaint led to firing

Jan 31, 2006, 8:15 am

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Texas Lottery

A former Texas Lottery employee who was fired in June shortly after receiving an excellent performance evaluation has sued the $3.5 billion agency, claiming she was fired because she complained about "national origin discrimination."

Former administrative assistant Cynthia Suarez, who is Hispanic, claimed in the lawsuit filed Thursday that the lottery's human resources director often "criticized, belittled and yelled" at her in a "hostile and belligerent manner." She also claimed she was denied a higher-level position.

When Suarez complained to administration director Mike Fernandez about her supervisor's alleged prejudice against her and "track record of mistreating Hispanic administrative assistants," the lawsuit states that Suarez was fired on her next day at work.

Suarez had received no prior warning that her job was in jeopardy and she was not told why she was fired, the lawsuit says.

Lottery spokesman Bobby Heith declined to comment, saying, "We won't discuss personnel issues or discuss pending litigation."

Lottery officials have argued in the past that state employees, with few exceptions, serve at the will of their employers and can be fired for any reason.

Suarez was one of more than a dozen former lottery employees who have complained about a pattern of abrupt, no-reason-given firings of at-will workers. The state auditor has agreed to investigate.

Suarez said Monday she hoped to set an example for other fired employees who have not come forward.

"It was wrong what they did to me," Suarez said. "I've lost money. It took me five months to find a job. It's been very difficult and I think they need to pay for it."

Suarez is seeking reinstatement and other injunctive relief, lost wages, compensatory damages and attorneys' fees.

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