Former Evansville Employee Settles Discrimination Lawsuit
A Hispanic man with a work-related injury has settled his civil rights lawsuit with the Town of Evansville, according to federal court records.
Roy Mestas, through his attorney Megan Hayes of Laramie, filed the stipulation of dismissal in U.S. District Court on Friday.
Mestas claimed the town created a hostile work environment and retaliated against him for taking medical leave -- protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act -- to recover from a work-related injury and for complaining about racial slurs made to him by his former supervisor, according to a prepared statement from Hayes.
Mestas said in the prepared statement that he was pleased his civil rights claims were resolved before a trial scheduled for Feb 18.
“Under federal law, the damages that I could have recovered from the Town were limited to $50,000, so I am happy to have reached a resolution through a settlement agreement with the Town," he said. "The Town also agreed to pay my attorney’s fees which is great, because she [Hayes] worked very hard on my behalf.”
Mestas sued the town in January 2017, claiming he was subjected to harsh and condescending treatment more frequently and more severely than other employees after he returned from a work injury in 2013. His supervisor expected him to complete tasks without the assistance of co-workers, and told co-workers not to help him.
Mestas said his supervisor referred to him and others with Hispanic backgrounds as “‘stupid beaners,'” and told jokes about minorities.
Mestas sought to recover damages because of the violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
In its response, the town and the supervisor said none of their actions was malicious, or grossly negligent; that Mestas was terminated because he was an at-will employee; and that he was not subjected to discrimination because of national origin or disability.
On Nov. 21, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal agreed with the town's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. She wrote the comments about Mestas's Hispanic background were were isolated and offhand; that Mestas could not prove his termination was the result of retaliation; and that he did not prove he was a "'qualified individual with a disability'" under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Mestas appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on Sept. 30, 2019, that Freudenthal improperly granted the request for summary judgment by the town, according to a report by the journal "Law 360."
The three-member panel of the appellate court also determined that Mestas' supervisor's repeated discriminatory remarks were more than offhand statements.
In Hayes' prepared statement, Mestas said that discriminating against individuals because of their race or their disability is illegal.
“And that employees who complain to their supervisors about illegal discrimination are protected from retaliation for making those complaints," he said. "That was a principle worth fighting for.”