A former parole officer contends that when she was fired, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice discriminated against her as a white woman.
Ellen Mae Burton of Galveston filed a lawsuit on Feb. 19 against her former employer, alleging she received unequal treatment compared to her black co-workers. She described the charge that she interviewed a minor without representation as false and used as a way to terminate her because she is white.
Burton, who since 2004 worked as a specialized officer overseeing sex offender cases, was terminated in March 2012. According to the lawsuit, she came under fire from the TDCJ when she allowed a parolee to sign temporary custody of her child to a foster mother who had previously cared for the child. TDCJ claimed she interviewed the child, a minor, without representation. She denied wrongdoing and said she was acting in the best interest of the child. After a disciplinary hearing, Burton's termination was recommended.
She said she attempted to offer a letter of resignation but was told that it would have no effect on the negative entry into her permanent employment file, the lawsuit claims.
The suit claims the violation was a "mere pretext" to terminate her and black officers had committed "more serious" violations and were not as harshly punished. She said black officers falsified travel documents, time records and used abusive language in treatment centers.
Before her alleged violation, Burton said that she was treated unfairly on multiple occasions compared to her black colleagues.
She said in the lawsuit that the assistant regional director increased her case load, but did not give additional cases to her black co-worker and said an award she received for "Officer of the Year" was destroyed and given to another officer. She also contends that she was often given extra duties to perform, which were not asked of her black co-workers.
Burton is asking for $250,000 from TDCJ in damages.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not immediately respond for comment.