FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 23, 2016
Kathryn Youker, Attorney, 956 982 5542(o); email@example.com
Julie Balovich, Attorney, 432 837 1199 (o) firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Nusser, Communications Director, 512 374 2764; 410 934 9588; email@example.com
Del Rio, Texas Oct. 23, 2016 – Local resident Irma Perez was awarded back pay and punitive damages after a district court jury decided the owner of the Del Rio daycare center Kids Connection retaliated against her for reporting child abuse.
The suit, filed in Val Verde County district court, charged that Kids Connection, located on South Main and Ney streets and previously owned by Petra Aguilera, fired Perez in 2010 because she reported to her supervisor, the center director, and the Department of Family and Protective Services that she had seen a teacher at the center mistreat children, including her son.
Perez brought a lawsuit alleging retaliation under section 261.110 of the Texas Family Code, which provides whistleblower protection to people who work with children. Passed in 2001, it provides specific protection from employer retaliation for teachers, daycare employees and other professionals who report child abuse “in good faith” or cooperate in investigations of it. The Del Rio jury verdict is an important decision because relatively few cases have been brought in the courts under this law.
“Mrs. Perez did what she thought was right in order to protect children,” said Kathryn Youker, an attorney from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) who represented Perez. “That decision cost her her job. We’re very pleased that the jury came to a just and righteous decision.”
In 2010, Perez worked as a preschool teacher at Kids Connection, which was managed by Aguilera’s daughter, Veronica Rudolph. Aguilera, who has run several daycare centers in Del Rio over the years, reportedly no longer owns the Main and Ney Kids Connection. However, she now owns and operates Sunshine Academy on Fletcher Drive in Del Rio.
Perez filed suit in March 2012 and on Oct. 6, 2016, a four-day trial concluded when the jury returned its verdict for Perez. Perez’s lawyers will ask the court to sign the judgment confirming the jury’s verdict at a hearing on Oct. 27.
“It’s everyone’s job to keep children safe,” Youker added. “My client was just doing her job. Employers should encourage their employees to report unsafe conditions so that they can investigate and correct any unsafe conditions. The jury’s decision lets employers and employees know that they can make reports without fear of reprisal.”