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Ex-Employee Wins $500,000 Religious Discrimination Award Against TDCJ

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) will appeal a half-million dollar judgment against it in favor of an ex-employee who claims she was forced to retire early after complaining of religious discrimination.

Vicki Allen-Curry, an ex-employee, sued TDCJ and Richard Watkins, warden of the Holiday Unit claiming she was harassed and retaliated against after she refused to take part in opening and closing prayer at monthly staff meetings.

Allen-Curry asked Watkins to excuse her from the payers. His response was to order her to attend the payers and threaten her with disciplinary action if she refused.

"Based on my religious beliefs, it's a very personal matter who I pray with and what I pray for," said Allen-Curry.

After refusing to participate in the prayers, Allen-Curry was suspended for five days and put on probation. Allen-Curry resigned in 1998 after an 18-year career with TDCJ. On June 20, 2002, a jury awarded Allen-Curry a half-million dollars for wrongful termination and back pay.

Declining to comment on the case, TDCJ spokesman Larry Todd said. "We are very, very conscious of the need for following all the rules and our posted policies, but we live in a world where lawsuits are more frequent than in past years."

Sources: Amarillo Globe-News, Huntsville Item

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