New Mexico fire marshal worker files bias lawsuit

October 2, 2018

An employee with the state Fire Marshal’s Office has sued Fire Marshal Don Shainin, saying he discriminated against her on the basis of her race and gender when she applied for a promotion.

Carrie Ann DeAguero says in a complaint filed last month in state District Court that she has worked for the Fire Marshal’s office since 2004 but her problems with Shainin started in 2014 when, she says, he called her into his office and told her: “I am not having an affair with a coworker.”

DeAguero says she told Shainin she didn’t feel comfortable discussing his private life and left his office.

She says she had hoped to be hired to fill an open position of bureau chief of support services, but claims Shainin started undermining her at work.

DeAguero says she questioned whether Shainin should be allowed to participate in the hiring process because he had been openly hostile to her, and “because the coworker having an affair with Shainin was also being interviewed for the position.”

Despite her concerns, DeAguero alleges, Shainin remained on the hiring panel.

Shainin did not respond to a message seeking comment Monday.

According to DeAguero’s lawsuit, score sheets she obtained through a records request show if Shainin had not been part of the panel she would have been the highest-scoring candidate.

But, she says, Shainin told her “a gentleman from Texas” had been hired for the job adding, “as a female, the guys would always undermine your authority and it would make you incapable of doing the job.”

DeAguero, a self-described “female Hispanic of national origin Mexican,” says the white male who got the job received lower scores from the interview panel than she did.

And, she said, a person she did not identify in the suit told her she would need to train him because he “needed to get up to speed.” DeAguero said this episode demonstrated the disparity in qualifications between herself and the new hire.

The Fire Marshal’s Office investigates arson and operates a training academy for firefighters, among other duties. It is a division of the Public Regulation Commission, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

A Public Regulation spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

DeAguero still works at the Fire Marshal’s Office and claims she has been subject to continued “harassment, intimidation, retaliation and discrimination” by Shainin and his supporters.

In March, she said, he filed an Inspection of Public Records Act request seeking her cellphone records and text messages.

“A few days later,” she says in her lawsuit, “Shainin withdrew his IPRA request on the advice of his superiors and/or legal counsel because it constituted illegal retaliation.”

DeAguero answered her work phone Monday but declined to comment, saying she was on the clock. Her attorney did not respond to a message seeking comment.

DeAguero seeks an unspecified amount of damages including front and back pay, damages for emotional distress and attorney’s fees.

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