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Former Texas Department of Agriculture worker files employment lawsuit claiming race discrimination

A former deputy chief financial officer for the Texas Department of Agriculture has filed a lawsuit against the agency, alleging that she was fired because of her race.

Shelia Latting, who is black, claims that her employment was terminated a year ago, and that she was replaced by two white employees who were less qualified.

The lawsuit, filed in state district court in Travis County, names Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller as a defendant, in his official capacity. Latting has been a state employee for 21 years. According to the lawsuit, shortly before Miller was sworn into office, he offered Latting the position of chief financial officer, and she accepted. Latting worked on a budget overhaul at Miller’s request, but was not promoted, and was told her job was terminated due to a “reduction of force,” the lawsuit claims.

Latting claims that two white women were hired to positions essentially the same as her former position. The lawsuit alleges that the two women had worked with an individual at the Texas Facilities Commission, and were hired shortly after that individual was appointed as an assistant commissioner at the Department of Agriculture. An internal audit last April found that the Facilities Commission had often hired employees with no competition and awarded promotions that were unsupported by evaluations. The Austin American-Statesman reported in July that the new assistant commissioner brought six former employees to the Department of Agriculture, and some of them were given quick promotions and raises.

Latting’s lawsuit seeks between $200,000 and $1 million in damages, as well as a change in policy to help prevent future discrimination.

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