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Former Texas Prison Guard Awarded $275,000 in Race Discrimination Suit

On November 6, 2003, a federal jury in Austin, Texas awarded a former prison guard $275,000 in his racial discrimination suit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice after determining that his race was a substantial or motivating factor in his firing. The awarded consisted of $200,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in back pay.

While employed at the Dominguez State Jail in Bexar County, Texas, Dennis K. McFadden, an African-American, injured his wrist while attempting to defend another guard against a prisoner at the state jail. February 2, 2001, which was several months later, McFadden attempted to return to work, providing prison officials with a letter from his doctor approving his return to light duty. Prison officials were not satisfied and, according to McFadden, demanded more detailed documentation within 8 hours. McFadden was fired shortly thereafter.

McFadden's doctor, Paul D. Pace, who sees 150 to 200 patients daily, wrote in a letter dated February 28, 2001, that, To simply walk in and get paperwork without an appointment is very difficult to impossible.

McFadden, 45, said that prison officials were making up rules that applied to no one else. The bottom line is that they really just wanted to get rid of me," he said. McFadden then filed suit in federal court under Title VII claiming he was discharged due to his race. He also claimed prison officials retaliated against him after he filed a workers' compensation claim.

Prison officials claimed that McFadden, a 10-year veteran of the prison system, was fired not because of his race, but because he had failed to provide proper documentation and that this policy violation was his third in a 12-month period.

According to evidence introduced by McFadden's attorneys, 5 other guards had also sustained 3 policy violations in a 12-month period. Four of the fiveall of them minoritieswere fired. The fifth guard, a white man, was not fired, but allowed to transfer to another prison.

I think the verdict speaks very loudly and very clearly about the evidence (the jury) heard and saw," said Anthony Sanchez, McFadden's San Antonio lawyer. The jury deliberated six hours before returning its unanimous verdict. See: McFadden v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice, USDC WD TX, Case No. SA-02-CA-0240WWJ. g

Sources: San Antonio Express News, Verdict Search Texas Reporter.

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Related legal case

McFadden v. Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice