A former Edward Jones FA claims he was fired in retaliation for accusing the firm of discriminatory employment practices.
Emilio Lira, who identifies as a Hispanic/Latino financial advisor, began working with Edward Jones in 2005 and filed an internal complaint alleging discrimination in November 2014. In February 2016 he filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) and brought a civil suit against Edward Jones in October 2016.
That civil suit ended in March 2019 when the court ruled in favor of Edward Jones and Lira was forced to pay legal costs of around $5,000.
In a new lawsuit filed before a federal court in San Antonio, Lira says Edward Jones terminated him on May 13, 2019. While the firm says he was fired because he had refused to report the judgment for costs to Finra and engaged in “unprofessional conduct,” Lira claims in his suit that there were other reasons for his firing.
“The reasons articulated by Defendant for terminating Plaintiff’s employment were actually pretexts created to hide the true reason. The actual reason for Plaintiff’s termination was to retaliate against Plaintiff for making and filing the internal charge of discrimination,” Lira alleges in his complaint.
"The case is essentially a repeat of the previous one filed by Mr. Lira, which the court dismissed in its entirety and awarded costs to Edward Jones. We deny any allegations of wrongdoing in this new claim and will vigorously defend ourselves against this baseless action," an Edward Jones spokesperson told FA-IQ.
Humberto Garcia, the attorney representing Lira, disagrees.
“It's not a repeat. He had a prior lawsuit alleging multiple acts of unlawful employment discrimination. That was dismissed on technical grounds and the court never actually reached the merits of the case. So that case ended. This case that was just filed complains of retaliation that we believe Edward Jones committed against Mr. Lira by terminating him. And we believe that the real reasons he was terminated was for having engaged in activities that are specifically protected by Title VII,” says Garcia. Title VII prohibits discrimination against an employee based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
And that means this time around, Lira does not have to prove that there was unlawful discrimination, says Garcia, only that he was retaliated against.
“It becomes a rather simple case, because we’ll have to show first that he engaged in these activities and that he was terminated because of those activities and not because of reasons articulated by them at the time they took the action of termination. We do not have to prove that there was unlawful discrimination,” says Garcia.
The previous lawsuit
In the 2016 civil suit, Lira had alleged that Edward Jones “denied Lira lucrative business opportunities and compensation and advancement opportunities based on his race, color, national origin …”
The complaint also alleged Lira was denied favorable territory, client accounts and other opportunities because of his race, adding that when he made multiple attempts to report such treatment to the management and the human resources department, he suffered retaliation.
Court documents detail how Lira, who worked at Edward Jones’s San Antonio location, inquired about a vacancy at a “more lucrative client-base” location in Uvalde, Texas in 2014. Lira, in his claims of discrimination, alleged he was not allowed to apply for the position, which was eventually given to an “Anglo” worker from the San Antonio branch who did not have a great track record.
Edward Jones argued that Lira failed to file a timely charge to the EEOC, and that any complaint regarding the other FA’s selection over him for the Uvalde location was time-barred. In general, an EEOC charge must be filed within 300 days from the date the unlawful employment practice complained about occurred, says the court order.
Edward Jones further argued that Lira lacked standing to bring claims of disparate treatment and that he cannot establish disparate treatment or a case of retaliation.
While the court found that Lira had standing to complain about Edward Jones’ discriminatory policies, it also said that he did not bring enough evidence to establish disparate treatment and that he failed to establish a case for retaliation.
According to BrokerCheck, Lira first registered with Edward Jones in 2005 and is currently registered with Waddell & Reed.