HOUSTON (FOX 26) - A former employee of the Harris County District Attorney's Office says she was fired because of racial discrimination. Denise Garcia worked for the District Attorney's Office for six years as an Administrative Assistant and says she was u justly fired in December.
This started last November. Garcia says she was headed to take her son to a doctor's appointment when she was stopped by police on TC Jester for failing to put on her blinker. She says the HPD officer asked to search her car, she said no and she claims he did it anyway without a search warrant.
A month later she was fired from the DA'S office, she says after Houston police complained that she refused to allow her car to be searched.
"He just kept on harassing me to let him search my ca. If I didn't let him search my car then I was going to go to jail he said. He handcuffed me, put me in the back of the car and I watched as they searched my car over and over and over with my children in the car crying," says Garcia who held a news conference in front of the DA's Office with her attorney Randall Kallinen.
"They did not find anything. They searched in her trunk. They searched in her glove box. They searched under her seat. They even went so far as to degrade Denise Garcia and look in her bra and her underwear. Denise Garcia was discriminated against because of her Hispanic background," adds Kallinen.
"The way we find out if there's been discrimination is whether other employees who were similarly situated were treated differently than Miss Garcia," says Kim Ogg who is running for Harris County District Attorney.
"There was five Anglo employees of the District Attorneys Office, Assistant District Attorneys who got in trouble with the law, five of them and they were not treated in the same manner of Miss Garcia. They were not put on leave and they were not fired," says Kallinen.
"The Hispanic community is very concerned that there is a disparity on how Hispanics are treated by the District Attorney's Office. This young lady worked there six or seven years, had a splendid record and because she didn't allow the police department to violate her civil rights she was terminated," explains Agustin Pinedo with LULAC.
Shelby Stewart is with the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice and also spoke at the news conference. "How do the police officers that searched this woman and her car, went under her under her clothes still have jobs and she's fired?" Stewart asks.
Javier Chacon is the former Deputy Director of the Houston EEOC. "There's a very strong case of employment discrimination and apparently there's also a very strong case that the police department went out of their way interfering with what happened with this lady. This is prohibited by title 7. It's called Third party interference".
Garcia was not charged or arrested. She immediately filed a grievance with HPD Internal Affairs and today she filed a complaint with the EEOC. She wants her job back and back pay. If that doesn't happen she plans to file a lawsuit.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson released a statement saying Garcia's termination didn't have anything to do with her race nor her right to refuse to have her vehicle searched and was due to her conduct.
A Houston Police Department spokesperson says Internal Affairs did investigate and could not confirm Garcia's claims.