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Former Nevada State Education Association staffer accuses union of racial discrimination

LAS VEGAS — The Nevada State Education Association may be in hot water over what one former employee is calling racial discrimination and a breach of contract.

Jaime Reborn, a six-year employee of the association, has taken his firing to court. It was because of the color of his skin, he says, that he was passed up for a promotion and subsequently fired.

Reborn, who is African-American, says that when the position for director of communications opened up in 2012, he was clearly the member of the NSEA staff most qualified for the post, holding seven college degrees, including one doctorate.

He was also, at the time he applied for the communications spot, NSEA’s information-systems administrator. So, given his current status as an association employee — and his experience, education and ability to speak Spanish — he expected to at least land an interview.

But not only did NSEA hiring officials fail to call him in for an interview, they did not even contact his references, Reborn alleges in court documents. He goes on to claim NSEA ignored his application because of his race, and that the NSEA has a history of racism. Even during his time there, he says, the organization pushed racial minorities out.

NSEA did not respond to Nevada Journal’s repeated requests for comments.

“It’s textbook,” Reborn said of the racism he alleges. “A black guy with the highest education is the lowest paid.”

He said he discovered he was the lowest-paid member of the NSEA staff by analyzing pay-scale information.

According to documents filed with the U.S. District Court in Ft. Worth, Texas — where Reborn moved after being fired from the NSEA in late 2012 — NSEA staff members, when qualified, are to be given preferential hiring treatment when a position opens up. But this didn’t happen, says Reborn, which is why he plans to sue in Nevada over breach of contract.

“I don’t see how they’re going to deny that,” Reborn said. “They didn’t even call my references.”

Ultimately, the association hired Nick DiArchangel — who also did not respond to requests for comment — to serve as its communications director.

According to Reborn, DiArchangel did not work for the association previously, which would mean that Reborn should have been given the first shot at the job.

Reborn complained to the NSEA Board of Directors over what he now calls a breach of contract and was subsequently fired.

“The contract says we must be given the opportunity to compete,” Reborn said. “I go through the proper channels to challenge this, and I’m fired.”

In court documents, Reborn goes on to allege that the NSEA has a long history of racism toward black employees. When he was hired in 2006, the association had four African Americans by his count, but by the time he left in 2012, there was only one. According to the association’s website, it has 17 employees.

His lawsuit lists several specific instances of alleged discrimination.

  • In the late 2000s, NSEA’s former Executive Director Sam Johnson filed a wrongful termination suit that was settled outside court. Johnson is black.
  • A former program assistant with the association accused an NSEA board member of making racist comments and went on to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission; She, an African American, resigned under duress, Reborn alleges.
  • While applying for the director of government affairs position, Debbie Staten was not allowed to complete a test required for the application due to a malfunction with one of the association’s computers. Before she was able to complete the process, a Caucasian applicant was hired. Staten is black.

Reborn, who is representing himself in the matter, first filed his case in Texas, where he now resides. In addition to suing the NSEA, the suit also names the National Staff Organization — Reborn’s union at the time of his firing. Reborn alleges his union did nothing to stop his firing and made no effort to help his situation.

Because the NSO is a national organization and because his firing forced him to move out-of-state for work, Reborn thought he could file the case in Texas. But, the NSO filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the Texas court lacks jurisdiction in the matter.

The court granted the union’s request — something Reborn hinted was unfair due to the NSO and NSEA’s plethora of resources to fight an out-of-state battle, versus his limited resources. Reborn said he intends to pursue legal action in Nevada, though he is not sure whether he will sue just for breach of contract or also for racial discrimination.

Thus far, the whole matter has changed Reborn’s view of NSEA.

“It seems very disingenuous of the union to claim they’re working for the rights of teachers when they won’t even defend the rights of their own employees,” Reborn said, being sure to note that he was not questioning all unions, just the NSEA and the NSO.

“The union did nothing on my behalf. There was no point in having it. I’m not going to make a sweeping indictment of all unions, but there was no point in paying dues to get fired when I challenged them.”

Chantal Lovell is the deputy communications director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan, free-market think tank. For more visit nevadajournal.com or npri.org.

[Header image from Shutterstock.com]

Nevada Policy Research Institute

The Nevada Policy Research Institute is a free-market think tank that seeks private solutions to public challenges facing Nevada, the West and the nation. The Institute's primary areas of focus are education and fiscal policy, with the goal of advancing free-market principles in both. NPRI has offices in Las Vegas, but scholars and writers from all over Nevada and the nation contribute to our mission. Twitter: @NevadaPolicyRI

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