Tarrant County College fired Amanda Sims after she came out at work and faced hostile treatment, the lawsuit alleged. Along the way, the case strengthened workplace protections for LGBTQ people.

Tarrant County College has agreed to pay $45,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit against a former employee, in a case that strengthened workplace protections for LGBTQ+ Texans.

Amanda Sims sued Tarrant County College in 2019 for discriminating against her after she came out at work, and firing her after she filed a complaint, she alleges in her lawsuit.

Along the way, the case set a new precedent.

In 2021, a state court decided that Texas’ anti-employment discrimination law applied to Sims’ case. That gave LGBTQ+ workers in Texas state-level protections for the first time, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Setting that precedent made the lawsuit worth it, Sims said in an interview with KERA.

“We spend 40 hours or more a week at work, and we want to make sure that we feel a part of that, and that we’re supported not only by the institution, but our state,” Sims said.

Sims’ case set that new precedent a year after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision established a similar precedent nationwide.

Bostock v. Clayton County extended federal workplace discrimination protections to members of the LGBTQ+ community. The decision in Sims’ case added another layer of legal protection for queer Texans under state law.

Sims alleges she faced hostile treatment at Tarrant County College after she came out at work. She was serving on a diversity and inclusion committee, and she wanted to set an example for her students and coworkers, so she became more open about her sexuality.

That led to backlash from her supervisor, Sims said. According to the lawsuit, her supervisor told her, “I have to overlook my bias when it comes to you.”

Days after reporting her treatment to the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission, the college put Sims on leave, and later fired her, according to the lawsuit.

The suit claims Sims was fired “for pretextual reasons.” She used her personal PayPal account to collect money for a student-run anime convention, which her supervisor had approved at the time, the lawsuit alleges.

Sims did not keep any of the money, and the college was aware of the transactions, but the college used that as the justification to fire Sims, according to the lawsuit.

KERA asked the Tarrant County College District’s general counsel, Carol Ware Bracken, for a recorded interview, but she declined, citing scheduling conflicts.

In an emailed statement, she denied any wrongdoing by the college and said that an audit “uncovered a series of self-dealing financial transactions by Ms. Sims that violated District policy.”

“After the investigation was initiated, Ms. Sims claimed for the first time that she had been discriminated against because of her sexual orientation,” Bracken wrote. “Those claims were investigated and not substantiated. TCCD administration made the decision to terminate Ms. Sims’ employment solely on the basis of the findings in the audit.”

Sims never kept any money meant for the college or for vendors who worked for the college, her attorney Jason Smith said.

“This is what employers do when they’re caught discriminating,” Smith said.

The Tarrant County College District agreed to the settlement in February, according to Smith.

On top of the $45,000 settlement from TCCD to Sims and Smith, Sims agreed to drop all legal challenges against the college and to not seek a job there in the future.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, by following our guidelines.

Avatar photo

Miranda Suarez | KERA

Miranda is KERA's Fort Worth reporter. She is always looking for stories of the weird and wonderful — whether it’s following a robot around a grocery store or sampling cheeses at a Wisconsin cheese...