he Park Hill School District and Jesus Ventura have reached a settlement agreement in a discrimination lawsuit against the district.
Ventura, a 53-year-old applicant in the case, accused the district of not hiring him based on his race, color, and national origin.
Park Hill has agreed to pay the plaintiff $9,000 for alleged emotional distress damages.
Half of the settlement amount will be paid directly to Ventura, while the remaining $4,500 will be paid to Ventura’s attorney at Sanders & Simpson, PC.
According to the lawsuit, Jesus Ventura applied online for three vacant custodian positions in the Park Hill School District from June 1, 2017 to Aug. 4, 2017. Tiffany Ridge Elementary, Lakeview Middle School, and Park Hill South High School were among the schools where Ventura sought employment opportunities.
Ventura, who had two years of experience as a school custodian, was interviewed by Kenny Page, the custodial manager for the Park Hill School District, on Aug. 4, 2017.
Although all verbal communication was in English, Page allegedly told Ventura to write selected words in English on a piece of paper.
Ventura did as he was instructed and allegedly received affirmation that his application “looked very good,” states the petition for damages.
According to the petition, when Ventura followed up a few days later, Page allegedly told Ventura he did not believe he wrote in English “very good.” That standalone reason allegedly disqualified him from receiving the custodian position. Ventura was told he should enroll in English writing classes, states the lawsuit.
Questioning if writing was a specified job requirement for custodians, Ventura spoke with Dan Heckelbeck in the human resources department at Park Hill. Heckelbeck allegedly said, “No, writing English is not a job requirement.”
After being denied employment, Ventura filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. He received a right to sue letter and proceeded with the discrimination lawsuit against the Park Hill School District and Kenny Page.
Because writing English was not a job requirement, Ventura’s attorney, Donald McDonald, claims the district used that reason as a pretext for refusing to hire a suitable candidate. The lawsuit claims Ventura was deprived of the employment opportunity because of his brown skin and national origin.
Ventura is a citizen of the United States and protected from being discriminated against due to his country of origin or ethnicity.
To correct the alleged unlawful employment practices of Park Hill, Ventura sought compensatory and punitive damages.
The suit contended Park Hill’s actions were “malicious, outrageous, calculated toward plaintiff, or were taken in reckless disregard of plaintiff’s statutory rights.” Ventura contends he suffered “substantial damages,” including lost income, employment benefits, and career disruption.
The settlement releases Park Hill and Page from any liability on this discrimination claim. As part of the settlement, Ventura agreed he would not seek employment with the school district.