The Houston Community College system has campuses and about 70,000 students sprawled across the city’s metro area. More than 90 years old, the system faces a new challenge in the form of a $100 million lawsuit alleging racial discrimination.
The suit was filed in the Texas 164th District Court by Zelia Brown, a former employee, on behalf of current and former African American employees of the system.
According to the lawsuit, under Chancellor Cesar Maldonado and Human Resources director Janet May, Hispanics have received preferential treatment.
The plaintiff claims current and former black employees are victims “of race and sex discrimination against top level Black employees at HCC.” The alleged discrimination “resulted in the dismissal, demotion and/or termination of Blacks at alarming disproportionate rates.”
Documents filed with the court include “an actual email chain” that apparently included Maldonado as one of its recipients that “states ‘Now we (Hispanic people) are going to receive preferential treatment.’”
The suit claims the school leadership forced some “black employees to take leaves of absence without cause to later use as grounds to terminate the black employee.” Brown states that she was placed on leave after she complained to superiors about missing grant funds at the school.
She claims that a condition for returning to work was that she would be silent about the missing grant money. She told a local reporter that she opted to file the lawsuit instead.
Brown has asked the court to approve a class-action on behalf of African American employees who were fired or demoted since 2014, when Maldonado was named chancellor.