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Feb 21, 2014 06:22 AM EST

Former Employees Sue UTB, TSC for Wrongful Termination

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The University of Texas Brownsville, UTB and Texas Southmost College, TSC, have been sued for wrongful termination and age discrimination.

The Texas Faculty Association, TFA, filed the lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville on behalf of three former tenured professors - Juan Antonio Gonzalez, Dorothy Boven and Karen Fuss-Somer.

The lawsuit claims that the three faculty members, who were all over 40 years old, lost their positions following the split of the two institutions that operated as one for about 20 years. The policies introduced at the time retained non-tenured faculty members only.

The suit describes the decision to give preference to non-tenured faculty members "an artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barrier to employment."

"The provost's charge that required non-tenured faculty be given priority over tenured faculty had a disparate impact on faculty members who are over 40 years of age," the lawsuit states, the Brownsville Herald reports.

According to the suit, the plaintiffs were not given enough time to respond to the termination. The removal also resulted in damaged reputation and loss of income and benefits for the plaintiffs.

Through the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and reinstatement as tenured professors alleging that their terminations violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The lawsuit names UTB President Juliet V. Garcia, Provost Alan Artibise and TSC President Lily Tercero as defendants.

"When faculty rights are violated, we are going to defend them," Mary Aldridge Dean, the executive director of TFA, said in a statement. "Tenure is a property right, and it is not to be taken without good cause or due process, and these individuals were denied both."

The University decided to implement layoffs in 2012 as the separation would lead to smaller enrollment numbers.

"But (enrollment) is up," Dean said. "I don't see that they have any explanation for what they did other than they were picking and choosing and ignoring tenure."

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