Texas Captain Sues Claiming National Origin Discrimination

A captain with the City of Shavano Park has filed suit accusing local officials of national origin discrimination for not choosing him as fire chief. Captain Ivan Hernandez filed suit in US District Court for the Western District of Texas claiming a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Captain Hernandez contends the city was biased against him on account of his Dominican heritage. According to the complaint:

  • Mr. Hernandez has been the only Hispanic Captain during his tenure with the department.
  • In late 2018, Mr. Hernandez applied for the position Chief, the next step up for him within the department.
  • At one time in the early 2000s, with the former Chief, there had been an Assistant Chief role, but that was later eliminated.
  • Mr. Hernandez was interviewed for the Chief position in mid-December 2018, but ultimately the Chief in the Castle Hills Fire Department was hired from the outside, after one year in that position.
  • No explanation for the hiring over Mr. Hernandez was offered.
  • Since no explanation was provided, Mr. Hernandez was curious (maybe even a little suspicious) as to why he was not selected as a long-time, highly decorated member of the department.
  • In fact, anytime the former Chief was off, or out of town, he always instructed the department that Mr. Hernandez was in charge.
  • As such, Mr. Hernandez made an open records request for the job posting/requirements, scoring and interview notes, to see what he could glean on the selection process.
  • Based on his extensive of the city and its standards, it became obvious that the scoring was biased toward the applicant from outside the department, especially on items Mr. Hernandez was clearly more qualified or knowledgeable on. This was not a fair evaluation. It made no sense.
  • When sitting back and contemplating Shavano Park as a whole, most importantly in the position of Fire Chief and other department heads, it was clear that Shavano Park, for as long as Mr. Hernandez could recall back over nearly 20 years, had never had a non-Caucasian preside over a department, nor anyone of Hispanic descent.
  • Further, given his open records request and now raising these issues of discrimination, Mr. Hernandez has concerned that retaliation (“backlash”) may occur against him.
  • Ultimately, Mr. Hernandez would like this resolved, but we also believe that a jury in Bexar County, Texas will see this as not only illegal, but spiteful toward a hardworking, qualified and educated individual, simply because of his immutable characteristics.

The complaint alleges discrimination and retaliation. However, it makes no factual allegations of retaliation having actually occurred. Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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