DART Worker Claims She Was Fired for Reporting Discrimination. DART Has a Different Story.
In 2008, Rebecca Williams sued DART. She worked in the agency's human resources department at the time, and said that she had been ordered by her boss to hire only Hispanics, as she told WFAA at the time. She was subsequently fired in what she says was an act of retaliation for blowing the whistle on the agency's discriminatory practices.
One of the DART employees who gave a deposition in the court case on William's behalf, Jacqueline Freeman, now says she's being fired for the same reason. In a request for a temporary restraining order filed Monday, Freeman says DART launched an investigation, and ultimately fired her, on Sept. 5, the day after she filed a complaint with the EEOC.
"The same thing is happening to someone else that happened to me," said Williams, now an independent HR consultant who jointly filed the TRO request with Freeman.
The legal filing traces Freeman's troubles back to Oct. 12, 2010, when she was preparing to give her deposition in Williams' lawsuit. Freeman alleges that DART's legal team encouraged her to respond to questions about race-based hiring by saying "I do not recall." Freeman refused. Then, on Jan. 10, Freeman says she informed her boss, senior human resources manager Michael Jones, that she had been made aware that hiring decisions were still being based on race.
Fast forward to September and the EEOC filing. Freeman claimed she was being "harassed, intimidated, and subjected to a hostile work environment by Michael Jones" after questioning why black, female employees are treated with less leniency than others and why Jones didn't follow agency policy in hiring and promotion decisions. Jones, according to her complaint, said he didn't have to. Freeman notified DART of her EEOC complaint and, nine days later, she received a notice that she was to be fired.
DART tells a different story. The agency declined comment on Freeman's case, other to point out that the TRO was not granted, but Freeman included in her lawsuit a copy of her discharge notice from Jones, which spells out in explicit detail why she was being let go.
According to the letter, the investigation into Freeman began not on Sept. 5, the day after she filed her discrimination complaint, but two weeks earlier when Jones learned that one of the candidates applying for a rail operator position, the hiring process for which was being handled by Freeman, was her brother-in-law.
When Freeman approached Jones for permission to make offers to the candidates on Aug. 28, she confirmed that this was the case and asked why, given the family connection, she hadn't transferred the case to another HR representative. Freeman told him that she didn't know that the Cedric Freeman who was applying for the job was the same Cedric Freeman who was her husband's brother until he walked in for testing. She also said she didn't see anything wrong with the situation, according to the letter.
During the Sept. 5 meeting, Jones determined Freeman was aware that it was standard practice for HR representatives to pass cases to other when family members are involved and that she had been told that it was wrong by other employees but that Freeman didn't consider her brother-in-law a relative. She also instructed another employee to make sure her brother-in-law wasn't interviewed by a certain panel member.
All of that led Jones to conclude that Freeman had tried to unfairly manipulate the hiring process to have her relative hired. Then, despite his order to discuss the investigation with others, she spoke to several colleagues "in an effort to disrupt or influence the investigatory process."
Williams disputes the sequence of events, saying that the charges were ginned up simply using Cedric Freeman's job application as a means to punish Freeman.
"On the application, they just say relatives," Williams said. "He didn't consider her a relative. She's an in-law. I don't call in-laws relatives. He didn't put her name down, and when he didn't put her name down, they fired her."
Williams thinks it's all ties back to her own problems four years ago.
"They're retaliating against both of us," Williams said. "Against her for filing the complaint, and against me because I breath air."