Former Farm Service Agency Worker Files Employment Discrimination Complaint

On Nov. 4, plaintiff Sheryl LaRue filed a complaint in the District of New Mexico for wrongful termination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act against the Farm Service Agency (FSA), an arm of the United States Department of Agriculture, and several individual defendants. The allegations center on LaRue’s termination from the Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, FSA office where she worked for nearly two decades. She claims that the reasons given for her firing were pretextual, and in actuality ageism, racism, and sexism-based.

The filing states that the plaintiff is a 59-year-old Caucasian female who worked as a county executive director for the FSA for more than 18 years before she was fired. Allegedly, the plaintiff neither received a poor performance review nor had disciplinary action taken against her until she was let go.

The complaint explains that in 2015, Brendan Terrazas, a “young, Hispanic male in his thirties,” was hired as district director and became the plaintiff’s new supervisor. Allegedly, Terrazas “immediately began harassing Ms. LaRue about her age and encouraging Ms. LaRue to retire.”  Terrazas reportedly showed preferences towards younger, Hispanic employees over the ensuing years.

According to the filing, the plaintiff believes that Terrazas made disparaging remarks about her to the FSA’s state office in an effort to get her fired. In October 2018, the plaintiff received a notice of proposed termination for allegedly failing to follow instructions issued by the FSA state office earlier that year.

The complaint argues that the notice was baseless, that LaRue did not fail to follow instructions, but instead complied with the state office’s and her supervisor’s requests. After allegedly ignoring the FSA’s policies regarding “progressive discipline,” it terminated LaRue in December 2018 for the same reasons outlined in the notice of proposed action.

The complaint alleges that the stated reasons were merely a pretext for both the discriminatory decision. The filing contends that LaRue’s position was subsequently filled by a Hispanic woman in her thirties.

The complaint states three causes of action: discrimination based on age, reverse discrimination based on race and color, and discrimination based on sex. For the supposed harm, the plaintiff seeks back and front pay, compensatory damages for mental anguish, distress and other expenses, attorneys’ fees, and pre- and post-judgment interest.

The plaintiff is represented by the Jones Law Firm, LLC.