CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Two more lawsuits were filed in Amarillo Federal Court on Wednesday against West Texas A&M University by both a former and a current employee, claiming that the university retaliated against them for an investigation of alleged sex discrimination in the campus police department. That investigation was also the one that the former WT Title IX office director claimed led to her firing in a separate lawsuit in March.
According to documents filed Wednesday, both former WT Police Department Detective Nathan Crawford and Criminal Investigations Division Lieutenant Barbara Ferrara-Faltinek have accused WT of retaliating against them after they cooperated with a 2021 Title IX investigation into claims of alleged sex discrimination in the police department, and also against both the Title IX Coordinator as well as other officers who cooperated.
Specifically, both lawsuits claim that WT Police Department Chief Shawn Burns as well as other WT officials directly targeted them and others in retaliation for the investigation, and further that WT neither prevented nor responded appropriately to complaints.
Crawford’s lawsuit claims that he cooperated with the Title IX investigation in 2021 during his time as a detective in the department, though even at the time he told investigators he was concerned with the possibility of retaliation by Burns. After the allegations of sex discrimination were “swept under the rug,” according to Crawford, he was “lumped in with the others” who participated in the investigation and claims that by July 2022, Burns was actively looking for a way to fire him.
Crawford also claims nothing was done in response to his initial retaliation complaint with the university, and that he was targeted by both Burns and WT with what was framed as an unfounded August 2022 disciplinary proceeding. This was followed by a February 2023 suspension Crawford alleged was wrongly put in place after he legally recorded and reported comments made by Burns.
“In the end, Mr. Crawford was worn down by the ongoing retaliation,” said the court documents, and Crawford resigned from his position in May 2023. He filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was given a right-to-sue letter in June.
Ferrara-Faltinek’s lawsuit described that she has worked in the campus police department since 2010 and was promoted to Criminal Investigations Division Sergeant (later retitled to “Investigator”) in 2016. She claimed she had ongoing issues with another officer including sex discrimination as early as 2017 and was threatened with retaliation by Burns if she filed a complaint.
When the 2021 Title IX investigation occurred, according to Ferrara-Faltinek, she agreed to participate and gave testimony to the investigators, which also included disclosing some of her own experiences with Burns and other police department employees. She also, at the time, voiced concerns about retaliation from Burns.
Ferrara-Faltinek’s suit claims Burns threatened to “stack bodies, starting across the hall,” in reference to those who participated in and performed the Title IX investigation. After the investigation, Ferrara-Faltinek accused Burns of not only targeting the former Title IX Coordinator but also firing another female officer.
“At least six other officers have resigned,” said Ferrara-Faltinek’s lawsuit, “including both of the email complainants in the Title IX case.”
Ferrara-Faltinek went on to accuse Burns of derailing her career track as an investigative supervisor and continuing to retaliate and create a hostile work environment. She said that “despite the risk of further retaliation,” she filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights with the Department of Education in June 2022, which was later referred to the EEOC for investigation. After the complaint summary was sent to WT, Ferrara-Faltinek said her situation at the department worsened further, including allegedly being unfairly passed over for a promotion in January 2023.
Ferrara-Faltinek filed a separate charge of discrimination with the EEOC in March 2023, according to the lawsuit, and was issued a right-to-sue letter in June.
Both suits claim that the university violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and are pursuing damages including back pay and benefits alongside compensatory damages. Both have also requested trials by jury.
The investigation at the center of the lawsuits is the same as the one the former WT Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance Department Director Georganna Ecker claimed in a March lawsuit led to her firing due to retaliation from the university. As previously reported on MyHighPlains.com, Ecker also claims that WT and the university system violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lawyers representing WT and the university system responded at the time and denied most of the allegations detailed in Ecker’s initial complaint.
MyHighPlains.com reached out to WT for comment on the newly filed lawsuits and was told that the university could not respond or comment on ongoing litigation.
This is a developing story. MyHighPlains.com will update this article as new information becomes available.
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