Fired community relations director sues Temple University for discrimination

By Jon Campisi | Dec 22, 2011

A former community relations official at Temple University who alleges he was fired from his position for biased reasons has filed a federal job discrimination lawsuit against the Philadelphia-based college.

Juvencio Gonzalez, a Northeast Philadelphia resident who was hired to work at the university’s Office of Community Relations  in 1995, claims in his lawsuit that he was fired from his job as assistant director of community relations in March 2010 for reasons the university said were related to “restructuring,” but which he contends were actually sparked by his Hispanic origin.

“Defendant’s employees assured Plaintiff that his termination had nothing to do with his performance, but resulted from a long-term and well thought out strategic business plan which would make Temple more effective in community relations and economic development,” states the lawsuit, which was filed at federal court in Philadelphia Dec. 21 by Jenkintown, Pa. attorney Patrick M. McHugh.

The suit claims that the termination letter received by Gonzalez did not claim that the university had eliminated the plaintiff’s job duties, only that his assistant director of community relations position had been eliminated.

However, the lawsuit also points out that Gonzalez often went above and beyond, handling duties that would have been designated to the communications director if that position had not been vacant for so long.

“During his entire career at Temple, plaintiff was a highly competent, highly respected part of the Temple University administration,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint states that during his employment, Gonzalez served under and had frequent contact with three different Temple University presidents, “all of whom appreciated his service.”

The suit also states that during his time at the university, Gonzales developed relationships with various political, community and school leaders in the immediate area surrounding Temple.

“The plaintiff had been a community outreach representative for the University, all communities, black, brown, Asian, white,” the suit states. “Plaintiff became the face of Temple University for that community.”

In 2008, the plaintiff’s supervisor advised Gonzalez that he should train another newly appointed employee, a black female and alleged longtime friend of the supervisor, in case she should ever have to fill in for Gonzalez if he was unable to perform his duties.

In mid September 2010, the university announced the creation of a new position of associate vice president for community relations and economic development, the suit states. And on that same day, officials announced that the same black female who Gonzalez had trained would be named to that position.

“The primary change which resulted from [the supervisor’s] thought out, strategic business plan [was] changing the face of Temple to the neighborhood black community from a brown face to a black face,” the lawsuit alleges. “The stated reason for termination from employment, reorganization, was pretext to mask defendant’s race/national origin discrimination,” in violation of federal law.

The suit claims that on March 9, 2010, Gonzalez received a letter of commendation, signed by his supervisor, for his 15 years of service at Temple.

Nine days later, the lawsuit alleges, Gonzalez received a letter informing him he was being terminated.

The suit accuses Temple University of violating state and federal race and national origin discrimination laws.

The lawsuit claims that as a result of his firing, Gonzalez has suffered from severe depression and emotional distress, “which has been exacerbated by his inability to find another job at his age in this market as well as the loss of health and insurance benefits and the amazing cost of replacing them at his age.”

Gonzalez also expects to lose future wages and other economic benefits of his employment with Temple University, and he continues to suffer embarrassment and humiliation, the suit claims.

Gonzalez seeks job reinstatement, lost wages, unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other court costs.

Gonzalez has demanded a jury trial.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-07758-MAM.

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