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Former Newport News waterworks director sues the city for discrimination

Photo by Vaoverland / Creative Commons. Skiffe's Creek Reservoir, which is part of the Newport News Waterworks system.
Photo by Vaoverland / Creative Commons. Skiffe's Creek Reservoir, which is part of the Newport News Waterworks system.

The former director of waterworks for Newport News filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming he was wrongfully terminated because of his age and his identity as a Hispanic man. 

In the December 2021 filing, Louis Martinez also said staffers made comments about his national origin, complexion and eye color

The city hired Martinez to oversee the department in 2017, paying him a salary of $154,000. Newport News Waterworks provides water to 400,000 people in the city and surrounding counties.

“Mr. Martinez brings a wealth of experience in managing public works operations and, specifically, in state-of-the-art water system administration,” said Jim Bourey, former city manager, in a press release announcing Martinez’s hire. 

Martinez had 19 years of experience when hired, including a post as director of operations and maintenance for a city in Arizona and managerial jobs in the public water authority for Albuquerque, N.M..  

Martinez said Newport News authorities marginalized him while treating younger employees more favorably. He said he was removed from meetings and stripped of some job duties.

According to the lawsuit, Martinez told the city manager and city attorney about his treatment. He claimed city authorities asked him to sign a separation agreement. 

He refused and lost his job.

Martinez claimed the person who fired him said he was “too old and too old school.” He was 67 at the time.

He filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September 2020. 

Martinez is suing for lost wages and a job comparable to his former position. The filing did not specify a dollar amount.

A spokesperson for the city said they haven’t been served with the lawsuit, but wouldn’t comment on personnel issues or lawsuits.

WHRO reached out to Martinez through his attorney, but he did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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