Former Mercedes fire chief sues city for age discrimination, city denies allegations

Local News

MERCEDES, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The former chief of the Mercedes Fire Department is suing the city after he says he was wrongfully terminated and discriminated against for his age.

Tommy Ureste was removed from his position as Mercedes Fire Chief in January 2020.

City officials stated Ureste was removed for violating a zero-tolerance policy, however, they did not elaborate on what his actions were.

The original petition levied against the city from Ureste in the lawsuit states the former chief was fired when “a younger firefighter” said Ureste assaulted him and filed a police report about the matter.

Ureste challenged the report and no criminal charges were brought against him, according to the lawsuit.

However, city officials still terminated his employment, and Ureste, who was 41 at the time, is now seeking compensation for age discrimination and wrongful termination.

The lawsuit states Ureste “was part of a protected class since he was over age 40” during the time of the termination.

Additionally, Ureste claims younger employees were treated better and were given “progressive discipline.”

Lawsuit documents cite Ureste’s “spotless disciplinary history and positive evaluations” but acknowledged he was not given the same progressive discipline measures afforded to younger employees.

Ureste filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission in June 2020 and later received a right to file a civil action from the commission.

In August 2021, Ureste entered his legal battle with the city of Mercedes when the original petition was issued.

The former fire chief is seeking compensation of at least $200 thousand for this matter.

In the city’s first response in September, Mercedes officials denied any wrongdoing on their part and further pressed Ureste to prove any allegations levied against them.

On Monday, city officials gave another legal response in which they again denied any of the claims made by Ureste.

There are no listed scheduled meetings in the litigation process for this case at this time. Any developments between the two sides will be followed on ValleyCentral.

ValleyCentral reached out to both legal teams for comment on the matter and is awaiting a response.

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