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National origin led to Fort Wayne firing, agency says

State civil rights commission finds probable cause

– There is probable cause to believe the city of Fort Wayne discriminated against a Hispanic employee on the basis of national origin by giving his job to a lesser-qualified American, a state agency says.

The Indiana Civil Rights Commission issued a finding March 31 that probable cause exists that the city discriminated against Gilbert Anguiano, who had been fired in 2013 on the pretext that his job had been eliminated due to budget cuts. Less than four months later, the position was reopened and given to an American employee who had won a settlement against the city in a lawsuit several months earlier that required the city to award Anguiano's former position to the American employee.

"While Respondent (city of Fort Wayne) may have believed it was in a difficult situation due to the terms of the settlement, it cannot discriminate against another individual as a remedy," the state Civil Rights Commission's finding states.

In a statement issued by city spokesman John Perlich, officials took issue with the finding.

"We respectfully disagree with the decision made by the commission and do not believe that the city of Fort Wayne acted in a discriminatory manner," the statement said.

According to the Civil Rights Commission documents, Anguiano began working for the city in 2006 as a relief person in the Facilities Department. In January 2013, documents show, the city told Anguiano his job had been eliminated. On April 9, an American employee was placed in the position.

"… Complainant (Anguiano) asserts and witness testimony corroborates that the American employee was less qualified than complainant. Although respondent asserts that the relief person-facilities position was eliminated due to budgetary cuts, this rational is unworthy of credence as the position was revived and awarded to an American employee," the finding states, calling the city's rational a "pretext for unlawful discrimination on the basis of national origin."

The finding only determines there is probable cause to believe discrimination occurred; a hearing must be held to determine whether it did or not. That hearing will be held by the Civil Rights Commission's administrative law judge, or both parties could agree to have the claims heard in an Allen County court.

dstockman@jg.net

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