A lawsuit filed Thursday in a Texarkana federal court alleges a local man was fired from his job at a Cash America store after more than 17 years on the job because he complained about racial discrimination.
Texarkana lawyer Louise Tausch filed the suit on behalf of Kevin Bell in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern of Texas against FirstCash. The company merged in September 2016 with Cash America, according to the complaint. FirstCash owns three Cash America pawn shops in Texarkana, Texas, the company's website shows.
FirstCash did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.
Bell is an African American resident of Miller County. According to the complaint, Bell began working at Cash America at 1723 New Boston Road in Texarkana, Texas, in July 1998. Bell was promoted to assistant shop manager in January 1999 and to shop manager in 2002, the complaint states. Bell managed the same store from that time until he was transferred to a larger store at 2826 New Boston Road on Nov. 1, 2015.
Bell claims he was fired about six months later, in May 2016, because of his race.
Bell alleges he discovered in the fall of 2015 that white managers doing the same work as him and white managers he had trained, were earning greater salaries than him. Bell reported his concern about the allegedly disparate pay rates to a district manager in the late fall of 2015 and that he was promised the situation would be addressed.
Bell alleges he was transferred Nov. 1, 2015, to the larger, "problem store" with a small increase in pay that was still below that white managers received. Bell alleges he was terminated May 31, 2016, because of his race and his complaint regarding unequal pay and that his employer used a "substandard internal audit" as an excuse to fire him.
Bell claims the store he was managing was designed for nine employees, staffed only by five and that requests for additional manpower went unanswered. Bell alleges that a negative audit would typically trigger an investigation by the company, not an automatic termination of the manager. Bells alleges no investigation into the audit's findings was conducted.
The complaint alleges Bell was "set up to fail" so FirstCash could get rid of him after he complained of alleged discriminatory treatment.
Bell is seeking back pay, compensation for lost benefits, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III. Court records show FirstCash has not yet been served with a copy of Bell's complaint.