Although workplace discrimination is illegal in the United States, many employers engage in discriminatory practices. Race-based discrimination especially continues to occur in thousands of workplaces, causing racial and ethnic groups to either endure the abuse, leave their jobs, or sue employers on claims of unequal treatment. Emerging in forms that can be as blatant as failing to promote a qualified employee, or as subtle as being surprised at how “well-spoken” a Hispanic colleague is, race-based discrimination is hard to prove in court, experts say. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 31,073 claims alleging discrimination based on race in 2014 alone, but approximately 70% of them were dismissed due to lack of probable cause. Since racial discrimination in the present day rarely occurs overtly, filing a claim with enough evidence to convince the courts is a difficult endeavor.
But one Adams County School District 14 employee took her chances when she decided to sue the Colorado district for wrongful termination and discrimination based on her race.
In the wake of the federal Department of Education’s alarming report exposing serious evidence of unequal treatment in the district, officials sought out people who could help. Months after the report, Robyn Mondragon was pursued and hired to aid the district in remedying the systemic racism being perpetrated against Hispanic parents, teachers, and students from district employees. But now, Mondragon says that the same system of discrimination she was recruited to prevent, has left her unemployed.
Mondragon says her job consisted of actively investigating complaints of discrimination from families, staff members and colleagues. She says that the circumstances were more unsettling than she had imagined.
“The parents felt like they were not welcome in the building. There was a separate lunch table that was assigned just for Spanish-speaking parents,” Mondragon disclosed to investigators. “Once I’d start digging and asking questions, absolutely every one of (the complaints) were valid. It was incredibly alarming, it was like nothing I had ever seen.”
She claims that Patrick Sanchez, the district’s now former superintendent pressured her to alter findings and statistics she’d discovered in her investigations to make the district look like they had improved. She firmly refused, claiming that it wasn’t in his job description to discuss those matters with her.
This refusal was the beginning of the end for Mondragon. In her lawsuit, she claims that since she didn’t budge on editing the data, administrators started to pry into her personal life to find anything to fire her over. She was terminated a few weeks before the end of her first-year contract. Mondragon claims the school blackballed her, causing her to get turned down for other jobs. But despite the circumstances she’s faced, Mondragon says she is more concerned with the underlying issue of her termination.
“People were coming to me,” she said. “People were feeling safe to make these complaints. They felt like they could have someone listen. I don’t know if those families had an opportunity to be heard. I still don’t know if those moms had an opportunity to be respected in what happened to them. So if this opens up that opportunity, then it’s worth it.”
If you feel like you have been treated unfairly on your job because of your religion, race, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the Olson Law Firm at (303)588-7297 or contact us online for a free consultation.