AUSTIN (KXAN) — A lawsuit filed Friday claims a former Austin Community College adviser experienced racial discrimination and was fired based on “made up policies and demonstrably false accusations.” The lawsuit claims ACC failed to take action on instances of discrimination from non-Hispanic employees towards the plaintiff, Rafael Ochoa, who is Hispanic.
Among the suit’s claims is the accusation that a non-Hispanic employee at the ACC Cypress Campus told Ochoa, “she hated him so much that she wanted to kill him, chop him into little pieces, feed those pieces to her dogs, wait for the dogs to [defecate] him out, and then run a lawn mower [sic] over his remains.” The lawsuit claims that despite three witnesses hearing the statement, no action was taken against the employee.
Another claim from the lawsuit is that a student threatened to “kick his brown a–,” but the Vice President of Student Services did not act on the threat and told Ochoa to “let it go.”
Austin Community College told KXAN it cannot comment on open legal matters, but it could share information about its policies.
According to ACC’s Student Standards of Conduct and Disciplinary Process, students have the right to due process when they are accused of committing an illegal act. The formal process outlined in the conduct code is carried out by the appropriate Dean of Student Services, including an investigation, and after a ruling can be reviewed by the Vice President of Student Services as the student’s request.
The lawsuit does not mention ACC’s investigation into the alleged student threat nor a ruling.
“The safety and security of all ACC students and employees is a top priority,” ACC wrote to KXAN. “Any perceived threat is taken seriously. Threats of violence are not tolerated. The college has a system in place that allows anyone to report an incident through multiple outlets including but not limited to an online reporting system, through ACC police, or directly with faculty or staff. All students at ACC are held to the college’s Student Standards of Conduct.”
According to the lawsuit, Mr. Ochoa was placed on disciplinary probation on Aug. 30, 2017 for inadvertently revealing private information about a student when asking the front desk to set up an appointment for the student, while the suit claims that non-Hispanic employees would not be disciplined for similar infractions.
On Dec. 8 2017 Mr. Ochoa was fired, according to the suit, for violating policy permitting a student to have a parent present during advising sessions, documentation regarding a veteran student’s visit and arguing with a coworker outside of work. Ochoa has appealed the termination multiple times, the lawsuit stated.
An exhibit embedded in the lawsuit, which the suit claims to be from the ACC Grievance Review Committee, cites that ACC policy does not include the requirement for advisers to allow parents to be present during student advisory sessions.
ACC responded to KXAN’s request for the adviser policy. The document did not require advisers to allow parents to be present during advisory sessions.
The lawsuit also lists a second embedded exhibit claimed to be from ACC Grievance Review Committee which states that while Ochoa was on a performance improvement plan, a supervisor did not sit in on any advisory sessions held by Ochoa.
In response to the allegation that Ochoa’s firing was in part due to an argument with a coworker, the suit says Ochoa gave a speech at the Board of Trustee’s meeting:
There is a silent video of me, outside of work, by the side of the road, having a private conversation with a white female colleague who has already left for the day, waving my index finger as I express my disappointment in her lack of teamwork after she asked for feedback on my day; and an anxiety attack triggered by the Advising Supervisor.
The suit lists requests for damages including reinstatement, front pay court costs, attorney’s fees, future pecuniary losses, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and other requests.
Update: ACC has submitted the following statement in response to this story:
The Austin Community College District strongly denies all allegations of discrimination as seen in recent media reports. The college cannot comment on a lawsuit before it has been served and had an opportunity to review. Should a suit be served on the college it will be vigorously defended.